As Wikipedia goes dark today in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills, The Washington Post, along with the Guardian and NPR, has offered a single-day Band-Aid for the missing encyclopedia: #altwiki.
Readers have been asking questions on Twitter using the hashtag #altwiki, and we’ve been providing the answers, with help from librarians and some of our readers. The questions we’ve received so far haven’t been easy: “What is the speed of light in a vacuum?” (299,792,458 meters/second), and “What’s the world’s fastest land mammal?” (Sarah the Cheetah). Oh, and this one: “Shoot, who played that guy in that thing? You know the one.” (I can’t help you with that one.)
#AltWiki, of course, doesn’t seek to replace Wikipedia, or indicate that The Post is taking a stand against the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). It does, however, tell us quite a bit about how much 477 million people a month rely on Wikipedia.
Other Twitter hashtags have sprung up in response to the darkening of our favorite encylopedia. #FactsWithoutWikipedia is being used to share and crowdsource information, and a #WorldWithoutWikipedia to complain about what we’re missing. On Instagram, users have shared photos in protest of SOPA, which many say would jeopardize the freedom the Internet was built upon.
Much of the conversation is happening on Twitter because so many other sites have gone dark, including reddit, Boing Boing, Wired, WordPress, and Mozilla Firefox, among others. While Twitter supports the protest against SOPA, the social media site said the idea of going dark for a day was “foolish.”
Follow the conversation around #altwiki below:
SOPA on Instagram:
Politics: SOPA protests shut down Web sites
BlogPost: Wikipedia blacks out on Wednesday
Style blog: How to survive the Wikipedia blackout