The web unites to fight SOPA

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is joining activist groups online to quash the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act – and he is threatening to kill the English language version of the encyclopedia in retaliation.

Wales made the announcement through Wikipedia. He said it’s a “very very big deal to do something like this, it is unprecedented for English Wikipedia”.

It wouldn’t be the first time Wikipedia protested against law makers.  As Wales proudly declared, a similar situation in Italy led to blanking the Italian language version, claiming that “the Italian Parliament backed down immediately”.

But the SOPA bill is even more contentious. Many internet companies and organisations are up in arms at measures that enforce strict and absurd laws on appeasing the Big Content industry. Its biggest critics argue that it will stifle the free nature of the internet itself.

A strike hasn’t been declared yet.  Wales referred to the threat as a “straw poll” rather than an outright promise, and it appears that Wales is attempting to arm himself with a groundswell of public opinion  ahead of a meeting at the Whitehouse.

It’s not clear if Wales would prevent access just in the US or if the whole site will take the plunge. However, he did say a “global strike of at least the English Wikipedia would put the maximum pressure on the US government”.

There have been many calls from those opposing the bill to help urge Congress members to vote against it.

Activist group Demand Progress has also called for web organisations to join to fight the bill, with 70 firms having signed up so far.  Demand Progress also backed a bid by Senator Wyden to read out the names of all those against the bill in Congress to highlight the widespread anger at SOPA.

It has called on internet users to contact Congress by visiting America Censorship.

David Segal, Director at Demand Progress highlighted the effect Wikipedia would have in opposing the bill as strongly as Jimmy Wales wants to.

 “It’s imperative for companies and sites that would be harmed by this legislation to mobilize their user bases to fight back,” Segal told TechEye. “We’ll be sending a strong statement about the unacceptability of governments’ interference with Internet freedom, and it’s the only way we can generate enough constituent contacts to beat the bill.”

Segal continued: “Wikipedia faces an existential threat if SOPA and bills like it become law. They’d have a tremendous impact if they were to go black this week.”