What's wrong with Wikipedia today?Wednesday, January 18, 2012 by: Carol Martin
Have you tried to search English Wikipedia today?
If you did, you'd have trouble accessing it because it's currently blacked out to raise awareness of and action against two United States legislative bills that could come before the Senate for debate at any time now.
SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261 and its associated legislation PIPA, or Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, have been reviled by internet users around the world as the death knell to the internet all over the world.
Those bills were introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors.
What are these SOPA and PIPA things and why should Canadians care about them?
Urban Dictonary says SOPA is, "The sh***iest piece of legislation the U.S. government ever came up with."
It goes on to appeal to internet users, "don't let the internet take a SOPA to the knee."
If passed and made law these bills would put control of the internet in the United States into the hands of the entertainment industry and government enforcement agencies.
They would control information shared on the internet using court injunctions against sites they deem to be carrying copywrited material.
That could be anything from 15 seconds of a popular song used as background on a home movie to disseminations of speaches or literature.
Any site that shares content could be targetted for shut down, if they deem it a violation of copywrite laws, even if users posted the information.
No opportunity to argue or defend, just shut down.
How would the U.S. Justice Department do this to a website in Canada?
These acts authorize the U.S. Department of State to obtain a court order that could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.
Even if those sites are outside the United States.
It can outright shut down sites in the United States for not fully policing content put on them by their users.
This includes social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and MySpace.
It also includes search engines like Google, Yahoo, Dogpile, Info and Ask.
And, it includes online encyclopedias like Wikipedia.
"Imagine a world without free knowledge," says the blacked out Wikipedia page. "For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia."
"SOPA and PIPA (and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States) will hurt you, because they will make it impossible for sites you enjoy, and benefit from, to continue to exist," says Wikipedia.
Mozilla, Reddit, Google and many other major sites are also protesting the Bills and asking all of us to call, email or write our elected representatives so they will ask our governments outside the United States to lobby against these bills.
They are also asking United States citizens to lobby their representatives to vote against the bills.
Some critics of the bills say the United States government will use them, if enacted, to silence civil protests like the Occupy movement and to block attempts to organize protests, like governments in other countries have done by enacting similar blocks on websites.