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SOPA blackout sees some students floundering, others unfazed

This post has been updated.

The hearts of students across the country sank when they logged on to their computers Wednesday morning to find that Wikipedia had gone dark.

The online encyclopedia was one of many to pull its content from the Web Tuesday, protesting the House Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate Protect IP Act.

The movement against these bills — meant to combat online piracy — has been taking the Web by storm, but not everyone knew about the strike.

Twitter was full of (often profanity-laced) complaints from students with research papers, presentations and other homework projects who were completely undone by the loss of access to the online encyclopedia.

“Oh. My. God. As soon as I need wikipedia for homework, it suddenly is ‘shut down’. I HATE YOU WIKIPEDIA,” wrote one Twitter user, adding a voice to the chorus of hundreds who found themselves in great frustration.

Even those who aren’t students have felt the effects.

“I’ve already tried to use Wikipedia three times today. Today is going to be rough,” another Twitter user wrote mid-morning.

Of course, as my Washington Post colleague Jenna Johnson pointed out in her report on the blackout’s effect on students, most of those conducting serious research aren’t worrying about losing one day’s access to Wikipedia. Not only are they capable of heading to a library, some are joining the protest by blacking out their personal blogs, college papers and department Web sites.

Others writing about the blackout online said that they had followed the darkened Web sites’ prompts and contacted their Congressional representatives on the issue. According to a mid-day check at Fight for the Future — the nonprofit organization behind Wednesday’s protest — 300,000 people had e-mailed Congress to push lawmakers to ban the bills.

And how many people have seen Wikipedia’s anti-SOPA message, which shows up when users search for a topic? Jay Walsh, head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation said that 12 hours into the blackout, Wikipedia had logged 100,000 click-throughs from the blackout message. Walsh estimated that, since the blackout page went up, at least 100 million users had seen it.

Walsh also said the Wikipedia had been seeing a slight bump in mobile traffic, as the mobile version of the site was not included in the blackout.

Related stories:

Web sites go dark in SOPA protest against plans to ban online piracy

SOPA: Getting around the blackout

Google to state anti-SOPA stance on home page

SOPA protests shut down Web sites

How site blackouts will affect your daily search

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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