The English language version of Wikipedia is blacked out today. Go to the site and this is what you’ll see.
This action is in protest against the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) currently doing the rounds among US legislators on Capitol Hill. For those unaware of SOPA, critics say that it is ill conceived and heavy handed to the point of stifling free speech and innovation. Based upon my reading, it is hard to disagree with those who oppose this proposed measure.
In a statement on the topic, Wikipedia Foundation’s executive director Sue Gardner says:
In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position. That’s a real, legitimate issue. We want people to trust Wikipedia, not worry that it is trying to propagandize them.
But although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not
That reminds me of Thomas Mann‘s epithet: ‘everything is politics’ taught to me during social psychology class. It’s a truism.
Some have said the protest is a terrible idea, dragging up the neutrality argument as evidence. I don’t. Anything that stifles our ability to openly express opinion or which, more insidiously, seeks to bury important facts, is an abomination. Whether Wikipedia is taking the right action is open to debate but at least give them kudos for drawing attention to this important topic.
Unfortunately I wonder whether it will be a Quixotic gesture. Wikipedia pages are available via Google cache. Even so, Google will publicise its opposition to SOPA and the equally insidious PROTECT IP Act.