Good luck using Wikipedia today. The user-generated, free-to-use, ad-free encyclopedia’s English language portal will be dark for all of January 18th, as Wikipedia protests SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect IP Act).
As Wikipedia says on their site today if you want to check out, say, whether or not Kermit the Frog ever made a controversial “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1973 (as the inevitable @fakewikipedia asserts):
What exactly is Wikipedia doing?
Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia: instead, they will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, and encouraging them to share their views with their elected representatives, and via social media.
Why is this happening?Nothing like this has ever happened before on the English Wikipedia. Wikipedians have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the first time ever, because we are concerned that SOPA and PIPA will severely inhibit people’s access to online information. This is not a problem that will solely affect people in the United States: it will affect everyone around the world.
Why? SOPA and PIPA are badly drafted legislation that won’t be effective in their main goal (to stop copyright infringement), and will cause serious damage to the free and open Internet. They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won’t have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn’t being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won’t show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.
So what are regular Wikipedia users supposed to do today? Go to the public library and dust off an Encyclopedia Britannica, and bother one of the already overworked librarians for advice on how to use it?
There is at least one work around we’ve found. Wikipedia is only darkening its English language portal, in order to push Americans (and annoy Brits, Canadians, Australians, and any other humans who blog, research or do business in the English language around the globe) into protesting SOPA and PIPA. So if you need to look up the Battle of the Bulge, the definition of herringbone floor patterns, the name of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated, the crew members of the second Apollo moon landing, or, yes, even Kermit the Frog, you can do so on Wikipedia…in a language other than English.
That will leave you, however, seeing definitions like Kermit la grenouille, which in French, sounds like the poor muppet is about to be cooked, and trying to reactive the parts of your brain where faint memories of your high school French classes reside as you try to make sense out of:
Still, you can pop sentences like “Kermit perça la même année grâce à l’émission pour enfants 1, rue Sésame, dans laquelle il fit de fréquentes apparitions comme journaliste-reporter” into sites like freetranslation.com, but that will leave you with awkward, clunky English text like: “Kermit pierced the same year thanks to the transmission for children 1, street Sesame, in which it did frequent apparitions as put back journalist. ”
So be grateful that this access to the free flow of information on sites like Wikipedia will only last for 24 hours (unless SOPA or PIPA pass, anyway).
Update: It’s interesting seeing how our normal web viewing pattern is being affected today. We hadn’t realized how often we unconsciously click through to Wikipedia (even when we know it’s not working).
Also, just now, we tried to read a Democratic Underground article about the Voice’s “100 Most Powerless New Yorkers” only to encounter this:
Update 2: Journalist Joe Tacopino notes:
Via @buzzfeedben and @fakewikipedia