Wikipedia’s Wales wants to join Reddit’s SOPA blackout

Wikipedia founder James Wales has floated the idea of a Wikipedia blackout to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act in the past, but has had a renewed burst of interest following the announcement that Reddit — the Web news and aggregation site — will black out its services in protest of online piracy bills Jan. 18.

The protest coincides with a House Oversight Committee hearing called by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to take a close look at the impact that domain name service and search engine blocking will have on national security and the American Internet community.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is among the witnesses listed to testify at the hearing, along with the Rackspace Chief Executive Lanham Napier and several security, technology policy and civil liberties experts.

On his user talk page, Wales revisited the idea of taking Wikipedia offline in protest, a tactic that the online encyclopedia has used in the past against an Italian privacy law. Wales has put the decision to the Wikipedia community.

“I’m all in favor of it,” he wrote on his personal talk page on the site. “[And] I think it would be great if we could act quickly to coordinate with Reddit. I’d like to talk to our government affairs advisor to see if they agree on this as useful timing, but assuming that’s a greenlight, I think that matching what Reddit does (but in our own way of course) per the emerging consensus on how to do it, is a good idea.” He asked that the community take a vote on whether to protest or not, and soon.

“[We] don’t have the luxury of time that we usually have, in terms of negotiating with each other for weeks about what’s exactly the best possible thing to do,” he wrote.

In its declaration of protest, Reddit said in a company blog post that it would take down its services for 12 hours Jan. 18 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Instead of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos of reddit, we will be displaying a simple message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action,” the company said. “Blacking out reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community.”

Related stories:

Venture Beat: Reddit goes black Jan. 18 to protest SOPA & PIPA — Who else will join?

Meet the new political elite: Computer programmers

Fight against SOPA calls in star power

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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