Don’t panic, students, but on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012, Wikipedia will be offline. I repeat, you will not be able to access Wikipedia. Why? Wikipedia, and other websites are protesting SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill currently in the House of Representatives that would impose penalties on websites suspected of violating copyright, in particular websites not originating from the United States, in US courts. You read that correct: SOPA would impose penalties, like removing a website from the Internet, without due process. No trials, no hearings, just gone.
In addition, the bill would allow the government to punish websites that help other sites get around the bill, and this is where it gets interesting. Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook are among these sites. Post a funny picture or video you found online? You’ll be forced to take it down if caught, and you will be caught, because if social networking sites don’t police their content, which is you and your stuff, then SOPA can be used against them. Imagine a world with no Facebook, no Twitter.
What can you do? Get more information on the Wikipedia blackout here. Contact your elected officials and let them know that you oppose SOPA here. And if you tweet, show your opposition via the #SOPA and #stopSOPA hashtags.
And if you have an assignment due on Thursday, make sure to use Wikipedia today.