Wikipedia and several other websites went dark for 24 hours on Wednesday to protest proposed U.S. legislation--the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the related PROTECTIP Act (PIPA)--they argue would effectively censor the free and open Internet.
Visitors to U.S. Wikipedia pages are being redirected to a page that explains the blackout, and invites users to contact their congressional representatives:
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.
Like-minded sites including Craigslist, Tumblr, Reddit, Mozilla and WordPress joined Wikipedia with similar protest landing pages if they did not go dark entirely. The Huffington Post blacked out the image of its top story on Wednesday. Even ICanHasCheeseburger.com joined in the protest.
But not everyone in the media world is happy about the blackout. Rupert Murdoch has been perhaps the most vocal critic, using his Twitter account to slam opponents of the legislation.
"Nonsense argument about danger to Internet," Murdoch wrote. "How about Google, others blocking porn, hate speech, etc.? Internet hurt?"
On Monday, Twitter chief Dick Costolo called Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales' decision "silly."
"Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish," Costolo wrote on Twitter. (He later apologized to Wales via Twitter, saying he was referring to the idea of Twitter going dark.)
Meanwhile, the Washington Post, NPR and the Guardian launched a temporary, Twitter-based alternative to Wikipedia.
"Ask a question on Twitter with the hashtag #altwiki, and we'll ask our readers to help provide an answer," WaPo's David Beard wrote in a blog post introducing the project.
"SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem," Wikipedia executive director Sue Gardner wrote in a message to "Wikipedians" on the eve of the blackout. "All around the world, we're seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the Internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms. Our concern extends beyond SOPA and PIPA: they are just part of the problem. We want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone."
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