Psssst, Wikipedia whiteout Wednesday!

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The 3.8 billion pages in English published by Wikipedia will not be accessible Wednesday, the Wikimedia Foundation that runs the site has announced, in protest against pending US legislation that it believes will seriously damage the free Internet. “The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate—that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia,” the group says on a web page.

The decision was a tough one to make, given Wikipedia’s insistence on remaining neutral about information, it points out. But the largest-ever Wikipedia online discussion, involving some 1,800 “Wikipedians” or volunteer contributors to the site, agreed. Sue Gardner, the foundation’s CEO, writes that  “although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not. As Wikimedia Foundation board member Kat Walsh wrote on one of our mailing lists recently,

We depend on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to operate. And we depend on a legal infrastructure that also allows other sites to host user-contributed material, both information and expression. For the most part, Wikimedia projects are organizing and summarizing and collecting the world’s knowledge. We’re putting it in context, and showing people how to make to sense of it.
But that knowledge has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it. Where it can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikimedia. Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or, if your views are pre-approved by someone who does, the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.”