The world’s largest free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is set to go offline on January 18 for 24 hours in a protest against U.S. anti-piracy legislation that could lead to censorship, Wikipedia said on its web site.
The U.S. Congress-backed bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), which are likely to be debated in the Senate and Congress later this month, are designed to protect intellectual property. However, the bills have sparked controversy among opponents who believe that the legislation could lead to censorship or the complete shutdown of some websites.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the bills would "harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States."
“Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," said Wales. "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."
The Mozilla browser, WordPress blog platform and TwitPic photo upload site are also protesting against the new bills.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which lobbied for the bills in order “to stop foreign-based thieves from stealing the hard work and creativity of millions of American workers,” said that the web sites’ protest campaign was "gimmicks and distortion."
The White House said on Saturday that it would “not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber security risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”