Protest sees Wikipedia go offline


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Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia is leading calls for search engines and social media sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to take themselves offline for a day in protest against a controversial bill currently making its way through the US Senate that could have profound implications for the internet.

Mr Wales has called for a "public uprising" against the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), which critics say will have a "chilling effect on innovation" by forcing websites to keep much closer tabs on what is posted by users on their pages.

Last night the Wikipedia founder confirmed that all English-language sections of his website would be taken offline for 24-hours starting tomorrow.

Although the legislation is American, it is likely to have a deep impact on websites around the world because so many of the largest search engines and social networking sites are based in the US.

The bill is the product of years of lobbying by music labels and film studios, which are infuriated that so much pirated content is still available through search engines and websites.

They have lobbied Congress and the Senate to introduce Sopa, which in its current form will transfer the onus of responsibility for policing the internet from law enforcement agencies to websites and the internet providers themselves.

That has caused serious concerns among the founders of leading search engines and websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia, who have written a joint letter to Capitol Hill urging a rethink of the current legislation. Fearing that the Senate will push the bill through unamended, Mr Wales is now pushing for the world's most popular websites to initiate a "day of darkness" and shut down simultaneously in an attempt to galvanise opposition to the bill.

The idea was first mooted by Reddit, a popular social media website where users aggregate and rate links to other sites.

Facebook, Twitter and Google, which have all publicly stated their opposition to Sopa, have yet to declare whether they will join Wikipedia.