---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Steven Clift
Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Subject: [DW] Wikipedia Black Out to Protest Proposed US Legislation
Hat tip to Anjney Midha for passing along ...
To: English Wikipedia Readers and Community
From: Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director
Date: January 16, 2012
Today, the Wikipedia community announced its decision to black out the
English-language Wikipedia for 24 hours, worldwide, beginning at 05:00
UTC on Wednesday, January 18 (you can read the statement from the
Wikimedia Foundation here). The blackout is a protest against proposed
legislation in the United States—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in
the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in
the U.S. Senate—that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and
open Internet, including Wikipedia.
This will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged a
public protest of this nature, and it's a decision that wasn't lightly
made. Here's how it's been described by the three Wikipedia
administrators who formally facilitated the community's discussion.
From the public statement, signed by User:NuclearWarfare, User:Risker
It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of
these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open
web.Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have
joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might
wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level
of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia,
which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about
this proposed legislation. The overwhelming majority of participants
support community action to encourage greater public action in
response to these two bills. Of the proposals considered by
Wikipedians, those that would result in a "blackout" of the English
Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed
to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support.On careful review of
this discussion, the closing administrators note the broad-based
support for action from Wikipedians around the world, not just from
within the United States. The primary objection to a global blackout
came from those who preferred that the blackout be limited to readers
from the United States, with the rest of the world seeing a simple
banner notice instead. We also noted that roughly 55% of those
supporting a blackout preferred that it be a global one, with many
pointing to concerns about similar legislation in other nations.
In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to
abandon neutrality to take a political position. That's a real,
legitimate issue. We want people to trust Wikipedia, not worry that it
is trying to propagandize them.
But although Wikipedia's articles are neutral, its existence is not.
As Wikimedia Foundation board member Kat Walsh wrote on one of our
mailing lists recently,
We depend on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to
operate. And we depend on a legal infrastructure that also allows
other sites to host user-contributed material, both information and
expression. For the most part, Wikimedia projects are organizing and
summarizing and collecting the world's knowledge. We're putting it in
context, and showing people how to make to sense of it.But that
knowledge has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it.
Where it can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker,
the public, and Wikimedia. Where you can only speak if you have
sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or, if your views are
pre-approved by someone who does, the same narrow set of ideas already
popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.
The decision to shut down the English Wikipedia wasn't made by me; it
was made by editors, through a consensus decision-making process. But
I support it.
Like Kat and the rest of the Wikimedia Foundation Board, I have
increasingly begun to think of Wikipedia's public voice, and the
goodwill people have for Wikipedia, as a resource that wants to be
used for the benefit of the public. Readers trust Wikipedia because
they know that despite its faults, Wikipedia's heart is in the right
place. It's not aiming to monetize their eyeballs or make them believe
some particular thing, or sell them a product. Wikipedia has no hidden
agenda: it just wants to be helpful.
That's less true of other sites. Most are commercially motivated:
their purpose is to make money. That doesn't mean they don't have a
desire to make the world a better place—many do!—but it does mean that
their positions and actions need to be understood in the context of
My hope is that when Wikipedia shuts down on January 18, people will
understand that we're doing it for our readers. We support everyone's
right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. We think
everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of
subjects, even if they can't pay for it. We believe in a free and open
Internet where information can be shared without impediment. We
believe that new proposed laws like SOPA—and PIPA, and other similar
laws under discussion inside and outside the United States—don't
advance the interests of the general public. You can read a very good
list of reasons to oppose SOPA and PIPA here, from the Electronic
Why is this a global action, rather than US-only? And why now, if some
American legislators appear to be in tactical retreat on SOPA?
The reality is that we don't think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is
still quite active. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a
much broader problem. 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
On January 18, we hope you'll agree with us, and will do what you can
to make your own voice heard.
Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation
Stanford University | Undergaduate
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