Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia and other popular websites went dark today as search engine Google blotted its logo as part of protests to stop Internet piracy legislation being considered by the US Congress.
The worldwide blackout came with a warning from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who said, “Students, do your homework early!”
The online encyclopedia, the tenth most popular website in the US, shut down most of its English-language services and replaced its familiar white and gray design with a black homepage featuring information about the legislation.
Wikipedia was joined by Google which placed a rectangular black strip over its logo, with a message to tell Congress please don’t censor the web.
On opening the Google homepage, one is greeted with the blacked out Google logo, with only a tiny portion of the blue lower bottom of the second ‘g’ visible.
On clicking on the black tape, one is taken to a Google page with the heading ‘End Piracy, not liberty.’
“Fighting online piracy is important. The most effective way to shut down pirate websites is through targeted legislation that cuts off their funding.There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled theWeb to thrive, creating millions of US jobs,” reads Google’s message.
The bills — Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the legislation-backed by major American media companies — would allow the Justice Department to seek a court order requiring US search.
Wikipedia is the largest Web entity to declare its intent to go dark, and joins many other websites that have already pledged to shut down for 12 to 24 hours to draw attention to legislation that they say will hasten the end of the free Internet.
“Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the US,” Google said.
The US Senate will begin voting on the bills on January 24. Google urges users to sign a petition urging Congress to vote “NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.”
Other websites like social news site Reddit said it will shut down for 12 hours – from 8am to 8pm to protest the legislation.
Reddit was one of the trailblazers of the blackout movement, declaring its intent to go dark on January 10.
Two days later, Ben Huh, chief executive of Cheezburger, which has a network of 50 sites including the seminal ICanHasCheezburger as well as Fail Blog, Know Your Meme and the Daily What, said his sites would be joining the strike.
Google announced yesterday that, while its search engine will continue to function, the company will place a link on its home page to highlight its opposition to the bills.
“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” Samantha Smith, a Google spokeswoman, said in an email.
“For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history,” Wikipedia said in a message posted on its darkened website.
“Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”
The founders of Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo! and other Internet giants had said in an open letter last month the legislation would give the US government censorship powers similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.