SOPA: Twitter will not join Wikipedia, Reddit in blackout

January 17, 2012

Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing are planning to black out their services Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act by showing users the bill’s effect on Web companies. These companies object to language in the bills, which are aimed at stopping online piracy on foreign Web sites, that grant the U.S. government the right to block entire Web sites with copyright-infringing content on them from the Internet.

Wikipedia will block all of its English-language pages — the first time since the encylopedia’s 2001 launch that it has ever restricted access to those pages as a form of protest.

“[It’s] a decision that wasn’t lightly made,” the company said on its blog Monday. The decision to take down the free encyclopedia’s English pages was made with the input of 1800 Wikipedia users who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the blackout, according to statement from the Wikimedia Foundation.

It’s also a form of protest that isn’t for everyone.

Twitter, for example, has been a vocal opponent of both bills, but chief executive Dick Costolo said the service has no plans to participate in a blackout over the bills.

In a tweet reply to O’Reilly Media’s Alex Howard Monday, Costolo said that “closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish,” referring to suggestions that Twitter lacked the backbone of the other services by not shuttering its virtual doors in protest.

Costolo followed up by saying, “Not shutting down a service doesn’t equal not taking the proper stance on an issue. We’ve been very clear about our stance.”

Instead of pulling down the micro-blogging service — which many people use to run their businesses, organize activities and communicate important information — Costolo said the company will look into how it can use the platform to encourage discussion about the bills.

Discussion over the bills is heating up, in part because of the White House’s decision to weigh in on the topic over the weekend. In a statement, the White House said the proposals to block domain names had serious implications for cybersecurity and that the bill has several other issues that need to be worked out after a conversation with all stakeholders.

The White House was clear that it still supports swift action on legislation to combat online piracy, but said that it will “not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.”

The statement, posted on the White House blog, also made it clear that the administration has questions about the measures’ approach to due process and their narrow focus on criminal activity.

The Stop Online Piracy Act — considered the broader of the two bills — will not be introduced in the House, according to a statement from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has co-authored an alternative proposal to SOPA called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act.

“Majority Leader [Eric Cantor (R-Va.)] has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote,” Issa said in a news release.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has said he will remove the domain-name system blocking provision from his bill; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has indicated he will consider an amendment to do the same for the Senate version of the measure.

While the House has slowed its pace toward passing SOPA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a Sunday interview with “Meet the Press” that he intends to push forward with PIPA because it is “job-saving,” though he acknowledged that the measure has “issues” that need to be resolved.

“We need to work on this and we’re going to — I will hope we can have a manager’s amendment when we get back here in a week or 10 days and move forward on this,” he said. “It’s important that we try to do this on a fair basis and I’m going to do everything I can to get that done.”

Related stories:

Wikipedia blackout: How to survive it

Wonkblog- SOPA: Lawmakers backing away from online-piracy bills

BlogPost: Wikipedia blackout coming Wednesday, says co-founder Jimmy Wales

Companies taking a stand against piracy caught in SOPA crosshairs

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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