If you have anything you want to look up on Wikipedia, you'd better do it today, or you're going to have to wait a full 24 hours to get your answer. Why? Well, Wikipedia will be leading a number of high-profile websites going dark on Wednesday to protest two controversial bills in Congress. SOPA, also known as the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives, and PIPA, the Protect I-P Act in the Senate, are designed to crack down on the illegal sharing of movies and music on the Web. However, critics say the anti-piracy legislation is censorship and would force sites to police the online world.
On Twitter, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, confirmed that all of Wikipedia's 3.8 million English-language articles will be unavailable from midnight Eastern time tonight until midnight Wednesday. Anyone who visits the site will be redirected to a banner that reads "The Internet must remain free." Also joining Wikipedia in going black are Reddit, Minecraft, Craigslist, and Boing Boing, among others. Craigslist has posted a message at the top of its city homepages with a link to "help put a stop to this madness" of SOPA and PIPA.
The Obama administration, as well as Congress, seem to be listening to the critics. In a blog post, the White House said it would not support "legislation that reduces freedom of expression ... or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet." And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said a vote would not come up for SOPA until a consensus is reached. By the way, if you're a fan of any of the sites that are planning to participate in the blackout, don't worry: You can still tweet about it as much as you want. Twitter will still be up and running. In fact, CEO Dick Costolo tweeted this about the sites choosing to go dark: "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."
Although there is a lot of opposition to SOPA and PIPA, some believe the legislation is necessary.
One person who does not mince words about his support for SOPA is Rupert Murdoch. Over the weekend, the media tycoon and CEO of News Corporation seemed to almost mimic the recent antics of Charlie Sheen and Kanye West, firing off a number of tweets in a short period of time. Murdoch blasted Obama and Google for how they are dealing with the anti-piracy legislation, tweeting, "Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells [ads] around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying." Google responded, calling the accusation "nonsense" and adding that it has taken down 5 million infringing webpages from its search results ... and that it fights pirating and counterfeiters every day. Many believe that Murdoch confused downloading with streaming, and the next day he backed off. Murdoch tweeted, "Sure misunderstand many things, but not plain stealing. Incidentally google blocks many other undesirable things."