(The Hosting News) – If you try visiting Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia or social site Reddit tomorrow and notice things aren’t working, it’s not a technical glitch. The popular online sites are staging a blackout in protest of controversial anti-piracy legislation including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Critics of the proposed legislation argue that the bills would harm innovation on the Internet by limiting free speech. Opponents also believe that the bills would place an unfair burden on tech innovators (including hosting providers) to regulate user-generated content.
Discussing his company’s plans for Wednesday, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales stated, “Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation.”
“This is an extraordinary action for our community to take – and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world,” Wales continued.
Wikipedia is using the moment to stage a call to action to those paying attention. The popular provider of the online encyclopedia wants people to contact their Congressional representatives to have their “voices heard” on the issue. For more on Wikipedia’s stance, go here (wikimediafoundation.org). The blackout will specifically affect Wikipedia’s English version.
Social site Reddit also recently detailed its similar plan.
“We’ve seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC),” said the Reddit team.
The social site’s statement was accompanied by a Reddit-themed cartoon version of William Wallace, the historic Scottish knight popularized in the 1995 film Braveheart. You can view the statement here (blog.reddit.com).
Since being introduced in Congress, SOPA and PIPA have proven highly unpopular among activists within the Internet community. Those opposed include a wide range of web hosting companies and tech giants including Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, and Facebook.
Despite widespread opposition in the tech community, the legislation has powerful backing mostly coming from those in the film and television industry. Companies including Time Warner, ABC, CBS, Sony Music Entertainment, News Corporation and Viacom are just some of the many supporters.
However, tech opposition to both PIPA and SOPA could be taking its toll on the bills. On Friday, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) agreed to drop one of SOPA’s most controversial provisions known as DNS Blocking. Such a measure would have afforded the U.S. Justice the Department the right to require that ISPs block access to sites accused of copyright infringement.
And on Saturday, the White House chimed in on the bills, expressing concerns similar to those held by SOPA/PIPA opponents in the tech community.
The U.S. House of Representatives reconvened today following its winter recess while U.S. Senate is still set be resume session. Official Congressional debate on the bills could continue soon.