Internet Blackout: Wikipedia shuts down services, Google urges users to petition

Wikipedia, Reddit, and Boing Boing are among several internet companies who will "black out" their sites in protest of the PIPA/SOPA bills. Photo credit to: ABC News.

By Christina Lorella

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, has shut down its services.

Wikipedia, like Google, is urging internet users to petition against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) proposed by the U.S. House, as well as the Protect IP ACT (PIPA) proposed by the Senate. The bills, which are supported by major media companies, are intended to restrict illegal downloading, including the streaming of movies and television shows.

Both bills would hold search engines and other sites accountable for directing users to sites that distribute stolen content. If passed, people and companies will be able to sue any website that directs users to illegal downloads.

Those opposed to the bills believe that, if passed, the government and media industry will have the ability to abuse its power, potentially interfering with the growth of new companies and violating the 1st Amendment rights intended to express freedom of expression.

“The bill is so over broad and so badly written that it is going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don’t have anything to do with stopping piracy,” Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, said.

In protest, Wikipedia, one of the most visited websites on the internet, has blocked its content from users to prove a point. Rather than provide information, the site redirects users to their local representatives. Reddit, Major League Gaming and Boing Boing have followed suit.

Similarly, Google and Craigslist have “blacked out” their homepages. When clicked, the sites urge users to sign an online petition.

The online protest is expected to last throughout Jan. 18, the same day that the House Judiciary Committee hearing HR 3261 is scheduled to occur in Washington, DC.

Among those opposed to the bills is President Obama, who recently suggested that he would potentially exercise his veto rights should they pass.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” The Obama Administration said in a press release on Jan. 14.

Decisions are expected to be made by Congress on Jan. 24.

To contact your local representatives about this issue, click here. To sign an online petition, click here.

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