Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales defends SOPA protest blackout

The English version the website will be inaccessible from 5AM GMT on Wednesday
until 5AM GMT on Thursday, he wrote on Twitter. Instead of a database of
more than 3.8 million articles, visitors will be greeted by an open letter
encouraging them to contact Congress in protest.

When Costolo was asked on Twitter if the microblogging company would also shut
down its global service for a day to support the same political cause, he tweeted:
“That’s just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to a single-issue
national politics is foolish.”

Wales said the decision to either enforce a US-only blackout versus a global
blackout had been made as a result of a close vote of the Wikipedia

He told The Telegraph: “The community vote on the choice of US-only
blackout versus global blackout was 479 to 591 in favour of going global, so
while there was a solid majority, it wasn’t the overwhelming majority that
we had for the whole concept. It seems to have been somewhat of a tough
choice for many people.”

Wales cited a British internet user as having “best expressed” why the
Wikipedia blackout should be global.

The user, who goes by the web name of ‘The Yeti’, said: “Although I’m non-US
and live in UK, when I read on the SOPA page ‘The bill would authorize the
U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites outside
U.S. jurisdiction’, this belief that the world’s most powerful nation has
the right to censor anyone on the planet and extend its laws anywhere it
wants just because someone in the US doesn’t like something is more than

“It’s a thin edge of the wedge…One day’s inconvenience is nothing.”

Wales has estimated that 100 million English-speaking Wikipedia users will be
affected by the blackout and warned students via his Twitter feed to “do
your homework early”.

Wikipedia is the sixth-most visited website in the world, according to Alexa.
The protest will be matched on other major websites such as Reddit, a
popular link-sharing service, and is unprecedented for the English version
of Wikipedia, although the Italian version mounted a blackout protest in
October against new libel laws.

Opponents of SOPA and PIPA argue they impose unfair responsibilities on
websites such as Wikipedia to check that no material they host infringes
copyright. Under current laws if websites remove pirated content when they
are notified by the copyright holder they are not liable for damages.

The proposed laws also make it easier for American copyright holders to cut
off access to foreign websites hosting unlicensed copies of films, music and
television programs.

The legislation has been backed by an intensive lobbying campaign by major
media owners, including Rupert Murdoch, and opposed by the giants of Silicon
Valley, including Google and Facebook.

On Friday the White House said it would not approve key parts of the bills,
however, effectively sending them back to the drawing board. A statement
from President Obama’s internet advisors said the provisions for blocking
foreign websites “pose a real risk to cybersecurity”.

“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online
censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic
businesses large and small,” a White House spokesman said.

Mr Murdoch complained on Twitter that President Obama “has thrown in his lot
with Silicon Valley paymasters”.

SOPA was proposed by Texas congressman Lamar Smith in October with the support
of a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans but was immediately set
upon by opponents who claimed it violated America’s First Amendment, which
guarantees the right of free speech.

Legislators in both parties attacked the bill and over the weekend Darrell
Issa, a Republican from California who has fought the proposals, said he had
secured a promise from House Speaker John Boehner that the legislation would
not go before a vote until there was “consensus”.

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