The English-language version of Wikipedia, the online free encyclopaedia and the world’s sixth most visited website said it will shut down for 24 hours on Wednesday 18th of January, 2012 in a protest against the proposed internet piracy laws – Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States.
The bill If passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet. The SOPA aims to crack down on online sales of pirated American movies, music or other goods by forcing Internet companies to block access to foreign sites offering material that violates US copyright laws.
It has also been said that the bill goes too far and could hurt businesses and investment, along with other Internet companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and eBay.
According to Sue Gardner, the executive director of Wikimedia Foundation stated that, “My hope is that when Wikipedia shuts down on 18th January, people will understand that we’re doing it for our readers. We support everyone’s right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. We think everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of subjects, even if they can’t pay for it. We believe in a free and open Internet where information can be shared without impediment.”
In shutting down, Wikipedia joins a long list of web companies such as Reddit and Mozilla that are taking similar measures against the proposed legislation.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia used his Twitter account to spread the news, writing “Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa“
This will leave comScore estimated figures of 25 million people who visit the online encyclopaedia each day worldwide without their usual one-stop shop for knowledge acquisition and research.