The co-founder of Wikipedia has threatened a "strike action" in protest of an anti-piracy bill being discussed in the U.S. Senate. Jimmy Wales said he may be forced to protest the proposed law by turning off the English-language version of the site.
Wales issued the threat on his private blog. He said: "A global strike of at least the English Wikipedia would put the maximum pressure on the US government. At the same time, it's of course a very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia."
The bill Wales is protesting is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which is now being considered by the House Judiciary Committee. According to Metro , SOPA gives U.S. law enforcement more powers to fight copyright infringement with "crippling" court orders.
The bill has been criticized as assuming "guilty until proven innocent." Analysts say sites such as Wikipedia where content can be published by any user are at risk. Daily Mail reports that the activist group Electronic Frontier Foundation explained that: "At a minimum, (the bill) means that any service that hosts user generated content is going to be under enormous pressure to actively monitor and filter that content.That’s a huge burden, and worse for services that are just getting started – the YouTubes of tomorrow that are generating jobs today."
This is not the first time that Wales would be issuing or making good a threat of strike. Daily Mail reports that in Italy, Wikipedia took down its site in protest of a proposed law making it a criminal offense to publish the results of police wire taps. Wikipedia threatened to take down its Italian language site permanently. Huffington Post reports that Wales, on his Wikipedia "talk page," on December 10, wrote:
"A few months ago, the Italian Wikipedia community made a decision to blank all of Italian Wikipedia for a short period in order to protest a law which would infringe on their editorial independence. The Italian Parliament backed down immediately. As Wikipedians may or may not be aware, a much worse law going under the misleading title of Stop Online Piracy Act is working its way through Congress on a bit of a fast track. I thought this would be a good time to take a quick reading of the community feeling on this issue. My own view is that a community strike was very powerful and successful in Italy and could be even more powerful in this case. There are obviously many questions about whether the strike should be geotargetted....One possible view is that because the law would seriously impact the functioning of Wikipedia for everyone, a global strike of at least the English Wikipedia would put the maximum pressure on the US government. At the same time, it's of course a very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia."
Wales has received hundreds of comments from blog readers on his proposed "Strike." Metro reports he has asked his blog readers to vote. Wales explains the purpose of the vote on his Wikipedia "talk page":
"So, this is a straw poll. Please vote either 'support' or 'oppose' with a reason, and try to keep wide-ranging discussion to the section below the poll. To be clear, this is NOT a vote on whether or not to have a strike. This is merely a straw poll to indicate overall interest. If this poll is firmly 'opposed' then I'll know that now. But even if this poll is firmly in 'support' we'd obviously go through a much longer process to get some kind of consensus around parameters, triggers, and timing."
The reaction to the proposal by his followers was mixed. Huffington Post reports a majority were in support of an online protest but many expressed reservations, saying a "black out" should be used only as last resort.
Wikipedia is used by an estimated 365 million people worldwide and is ranked the sixth most popular website in the world.
Huffington Post also reports major Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have expressed their opposition to the proposed law in an open letter to the U.S. Senate and House of representatives. In the letter, they said the bill will "pose a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation's cybersecurity."
Google Chairman Eric Shmidt, says SOPA is a form of censorship. He said during a speech he delivered at MIT's Sloan School of Management:
"The solutions are draconian. There's a bill that would require ISPs to remove URLs from the Web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked."