Lazy researchers (and bloggers) of the world will be left naked and defenseless tomorrow, thanks to Wikipedia's planned shutdown in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The English version of the site will be unavailable for twenty-four hours, instead displaying instructions on how to contact local members of Congress. The site's founder Jimmy Wales came up with the plan in hopes that Wikipedia's twenty-five million daily users would "melt switchboards" in Washington, outraged by their lack of access to free and factually shaky information.
Aside from Wales tweeting, "Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa," the Wikimedia Foundation also released a formal statement:
On January 18, 2012, in an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.
A number of other sites have announced temporary blackouts tomorrow in protest of SOPA and PIPA, including Reddit, BoingBoing, and all of the Cheezburger web empire. "The Internet is disruptive and chaotic and it does allow things that are bad like unauthorized piracy, but the answer is not to have the federal government enforce potentially bad bureaucracy and legislation," said Reddit manager Erik martin. "That's not the way to actually solve anything."
Though it probably won't quell the mass e-panic, the White House released a statement saying that any official legislation against online piracy "must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."
Somehow that's not especially comforting. Will there ever come a day when I can rip unaired episodes of Downton Abbey and research famous ghost ships in peace? I thought that's why the internet was invented in the first place.