Time to dust off the old Encyclopedia Britannica, because all your online facts are about to go unchecked. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has confirmed that the free online encyclopedia will shut down on Wednesday, January 18 in protest of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two anti-piracy bills that are currently being debated in Congress.
“This is going to be wow,” Wales tweeted to his followers. “I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”
The news follows aggregation site Reddit’s announcement that it, too, will be closed for business on Wednesday.
Wales had written earlier on his Wikipedia User Talk page, “I’m all in favor of it, and I think it would be great if we could act quickly to coordinate with Reddit.”
Other sites may or may not follow. Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU had posted on Twitter, “Wikipedia Will Shut Down on Wednesday to Protest SOPA tnw.co/xRk6oc Twitter, Google, Facebook should join in.”
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo replied, “that’s just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish…”
He later conceded to Wales that he “was only referring to Twitter in response to explicit tweet suggesting we lacked courage for not shutting down….”
Amid the clamoring protests of leading tech companies, the White House received a petition signed by 51,689 voters to veto the bill. Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff posted the official response:
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.
Meanwhile, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced that a hearing about the bill scheduled on the same day as the protests would be postponed, but that anti-piracy legislation would not move to the House floor without a consensus. In the hearing, technical experts would weigh in on the impact of Domain Name Service (DNS) and search engine blocking on the Internet. Said Chairman Issa:
While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House. Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote. The voice of the Internet community has been heard. Much more education for Members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal.