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Wikipedia Blacks Out for SOPA Protest

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 17, 2012 2:01 PM

Enjoy your Wikipedia while you can tonight. When the clock strikes midnight Wednesday morning, the entire world will be unable to access Wikipedia's English-language pages -- except for those relating to SOPA, PIPA and Internet censorship, of course.

Though other sites are planning to participate in Wednesday's online SOPA protest, the Wikipedia blackout will likely be the largest and most drastic of actions.

Other websites, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, oppose the legislation but have no plans to implement a complete blackout.

Admittedly, Wikipedia is in a unique position. As a non-profit, it has considerably more leeway to make these kinds of policy decisions. The Wikimedia Foundation Board voted after polling community members and finding worldwide support for an English-language Wikipedia blackout.

Google and Yahoo don't have the same option -- they must answer to shareholders. Facebook and Twitter must consider planned IPOs. WordPress facilitates 14.7% of the top million websites worldwide -- and 22% of all active sites in the United States. A WordPress blackout would practically turn off the Internet.

If these companies cut off access, there could be all sorts of legal drama. A self-inflicted blackout could violate consumer contracts and breach ad agreements. It could lead to millions in lost revenue. Shareholders could even sue for negligent conduct.

Which is probably why sites like Google only have plans to erect banners and link visitors to more information. Though it's also possible they agree with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. In response to the Wikipedia blackout, he recently tweeted, "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."

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