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Wikipedia, the web’s edit-friendly encyclopedia, is considering drastic action to get the government to back down from passing the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), a bill that opponents consider the equivalent of legalizing web censorship.
In a note posted to his personal page Saturday, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales floats the idea of a community strike that would make the entire site blank to U.S., and possibly even global, visitors.
“A few months ago, the Italian Wikipedia community made a decision to blank all of Italian Wikipedia for a short period in order to protest a law which would infringe on their editorial independence. The Italian Parliament backed down immediately,” Wales wrote. “My own view is that a community strike was very powerful and successful in Italy and could be even more powerful in [opposing SOPA] … At the same time, it’s of course a very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia.”
SOPA was introduced in late October by Rep. Lamar Smith and, if passed into law, will give the U.S. government and copyright holders the authority to seek court orders against IP infringers. Startups and technology giants Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and others have come out in opposition of the bill.
A vast majority of commenters on the page appear to be in support of blanking all of Wikipedia. “A few days without the sum of all human knowledge is worth it to send a message to keep the Internet safe,” ZamorakO o wrote, echoing the thoughts of others.
A vocal minority, however, strongly oppose the community strike. “This is not what Wikipedia is for,” user Kodabar wrote. “Jimmy Wales may wish to make a protest, but he can do it himself with his own resources, not suborn Wikipedia to be his puppet. The cause may be just, but this is just reaching out to use the most convenient, closest tool at hand rather than the most appropriate.”
Wales also mentioned a potential Monday visit to the White House, and a wish to convince President Obama to veto the bill altogether, as the initial impetus for the poll. It’s not yet known if the visit came to fruition.