The Wikipedia Blackout Is Here

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We're more than eight hours into the Great Wikipedia Blackout of 2012, and so far, the world doesn't seem to have ended. But it's too early to say whether or not the inability to quickly look up the founding father of the original yo-yo craze will rend apart the entire fabric of American life in under 24 hours.

Wikipedia's site has gone dark today as part of a coordinated day of protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act that's been proposed in the House, and which many Web companies see as draconian and destructive to the culture of the Internet. The Wikipedia homepage seems to be normal, but try to read an article, and you get a grayed-out screen with a message that begins "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge." That line of reasoning hasn't exactly worked so well for underfunded public libraries, but then again, they don't have the crucial lazy, bored-at-work demographic on their side — all of America, that is.

Wikipedia's action is the most dramatic, but it's joined by other allies in protest. Reddit will shut down for twelve hours, for instance, and Google's homepage features a black bar "censoring" its famous logo, accompanied by a call to action: "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the Web." Other Internet behemoths, like Twitter and Facebook, have helped lobby against SOPA, but their role in the blackout has mostly been to facilitate discussion about it — underscoring the bloc's main constitutional argument, that SOPA would restrict free speech.

For instance, this morning, Alec Baldwin tweeted his feelings about the bill, which he called overkill, while Rupert Murdoch took to the service to air his support, Businessweek reports.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch called Google a “piracy leader” in a Jan. 14 post on Twitter, saying that it streams movies for free and sells advertisements around them. A day later he wrote in his Twitter account that Google is a “great company doing many exciting things. Only one complaint, and it’s important.” [....]

Murdoch represents a “radioactive” brand and his comments are “terrible timing” for supporters of the anti-piracy legislation, Kersh of New York University said.

“As supervisor of a media empire that is best known at present for hacking into people’s personal phone accounts, this is not someone you want arguing for more government involvement in the lives of the public,” Kersh said.

Maybe his one complaint with Google is actually what they've done to Gmail recently?

But even within the ranks of Wikipedia, there's some disagreement about whether the protest was wise, reports the AP. "My main concern is that it puts the organization in the role of advocacy, and that's a slippery slope," Wikipedia editor Robert Lawton told the wire. "Before we know it, we're blacked out because we want to save the whales." While that scenario might be Drew Barrymore's dream come true, Jimmy Wales, the site's founder, tweeted that "The encyclopedia will always be neutral. The community need not be, not when the encyclopedia is threatened."