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Americas

Wikipedia goes black against anti-piracy laws

media English-language Wikipedia page on 18 January 2012 Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s English site has gone dark for 24-hours, in protest against anti-piracy legislation put forth to the US Congress. Users visiting the site were greeted by a black screen, while Google and other websites planned similar online protests on Wednesday.

Wikipedia’s home screen blocks access to content and displays a message reading, “Imagine a world without free knowledge,” while Google offers the option to click on a link to sign a petition against the proposed anti-piracy bill.

France-based Reporters Without Borders joined the fight, closing its English-language site on Wednesday. It said the legislation would affect an incalculable number of internet users.

“These two excessively repressive bills would lead to an unprecedented degree of Internet censorship and would sacrifice online freedom of expression in the name of combating piracy. It is not right that the country that gave birth to the Internet should now deliver the death blow to digital freedom.”

Founders of Wikipedia, Google, Twitter and Yahoo! said last month in an open letter that the legislation would liken the US’s censorship laws to those of China, Malaysia and Iran.

The White House also expressed concern over the bill, particularly in its obstruction of freedom of speech, a founding principle of the US Constitution.

"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," it said.

News Corporation’s chief executive Rupert Murdoch has publicly backed the legislation.

Online sites are up in arms against bills proposed by the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced at the House of Representatives, and the Senate’s version led by the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

The US bills would block access to websites containing unauthorised copyright material, and the US government would be allowed to request court orders to bring down websites, including foreign ones, linked to piracy.

 

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