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Wikipedia considers Total Blackout in fight against SOPA

by Alistair Lowe on 13 December 2011, 10:46

Tags: Wikimedia Foundation

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabafc

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Later this week, the Senate's House Judiciary Committee will vote on the 'Stop Online Piracy Act' also known as SOPA. For those outside of the US, the Judiciary Committee is essentially a filter mechanism that determines by majority if an Act/Bill should be passed through to the Senate for consideration.

We haven't spoken too much about the SOPA here at HEXUS, the Act seemed so extreme that we were unsure that it would reach this stage in the US legal system. The Act would allow the Department of Justice along with copyright holders to seek out court orders against websites accused of infringement. The Act would provide powers such as barring advertising networks or payment services such as PayPal from doing business with accused sites, along with barring search engines from indexing and, forcing ISPs to block access to such sites.

Concerns have naturally been raised, with focus on the Act's broad definitions. Amongst those concerns, for example, is blocking of websites that host small elements of legally questionable content, a popular example has referred to plug-ins on the Firefox website that could be used to enable piracy. Open Source projects could be closed down, we all know of the constant and ongoing legal quarrels over elements of Google's Android operating system. The Act would involve DNS filtering and deep level packet inspection, raising privacy concerns. The Act also would also expose companies to liability of the acts of their employees. To counter notify against a claim, websites must concede jurisdiction, something most sane owners of foreign sites are unlikely to do.

Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has been so concerned with the Act that he has proposed the site consider a total blackout in protest. Last Saturday Jimmy asked the Wikipedia community for feedback on the idea which had been inspired by the Italian Wikipedia branch, which ran a similar campaign earlier this year to great effect, seeing the Italian parliament immediately back-down on proposed changes to publication laws.

Support for the idea from the Wikipedia community has been overwhelmingly positive, though some question the appropriateness of Wikipedia taking a political stance, given that the site prides itself on producing content that is delivered from a neutral standpoint; however, as Jimmy reminds those in the US "Time is not on our side here," as the SOPA is being fast-tracked through Congress at an alarming rate.



HEXUS Forums :: 16 Comments

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We haven't spoken too much about the SOPA here at HEXUS, the Act seemed so extreme that we were unsure that it would reach this stage in the US legal system.

Hmm, looks like "no-one should be surprised at the level of stupidity in the US political system"

Must admit that this is the first time that I've heard of this too (thanks Hexus) and to be honest Wikipedia's proposed action sounds quite reasonable and proportionate to me. As to "it's a political stance", I remain very unconvinced since it's only this bill/act that is being objected to.

Actually, with one exception, I can't see anyone being pleased with this. Big businesses especially I'm sure are going to be "delighted" (sarcasm) that they're going to be held responsible for the action of their employees.

The exception of which I speak is of course the folks who want the "Ministry of Truth" since this seems to me to be what we're heading towards. Just wish there was more than I could do to fight this.
We've been working hard to increase the quality of Wikipedia articles so that people can take some of them seriously (explaining science to the lay person for example). Stunts like this will just destroy trust and hinder us massively.
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Support for the idea from the Wikipedia community has been overwhelmingly positive, though some question the appropriateness of Wikipedia taking a political stance, given that the site prides itself on producing content that is delivered from a neutral standpoint; however, as Jimmy reminds those in the US "Time is not on our side here," as the SOPA is being fast-tracked through Congress at an alarming rate.
I would have thought if they want to keep the ability to actually remain neutral, a protest is the best option. I don't see how this stunt would damage trust, if anything it should give people more trust as it shows Wikipedia is against content being filtered.
If I wasn't such a draconian bill, with the ability to affect Wikipedia directly, I think I'd probably agree with you Kal.
Will this effect us in the UK? If so, how?! I don't see David Cameron creating laws to hinder the lives of American's, so why can't they keep their noses out of our lives?