London : Popular online encyclopaedia Wikipedia will voluntarily shut down for 24 hours Wednesday as a protest against internet piracy laws in the US. Co-founder Jimmy Wales said the internet “will not tolerate censorship” in response to allegations of copyright infringement.
Wales said the decision to either enforce a “US-only” blackout versus a global blackout was made after a vote of the community.
“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 to the Telegraph.
Other American technology companies have refused to support Wikipedia.
“The general sentiment seemed to be that US law, as it impacts the internet, can affect everyone,” Wales told the British daily.
“As for me, what I am hoping is that people outside the US who have friends or family who are voters in the US, will ask them to make a call to their senator or representative, and I hope we send a broad global message that the internet as a whole will not tolerate censorship in response to mere allegations of copyright infringement,” he said.
The major targets of the protest are the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
The English version of the website will be inaccessible from 5 a.m. GMT Wednesday till 5 a.m. Thursday, Wales wrote on Twitter.
Instead of the online database of over 3.8 million articles, internet users will be greeted by a letter encouraging them to contact the US Congress in protest.
Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo was asked if the microblogging website would also shut down its global service o support the cause
“That’s just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to a single-issue national politics is foolish,” Costolo tweeted.
Wales said around 100 million English-speaking Wikipedia users will be affected by the blackout.
Opponents of the SOPA and PIPA argue that they “impose unfair responsibilities” on websites like Wikipedia to check that no material they host infringes copyright, the daily said.
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 TV programmes.