Why I want to bring down the internet – for a day

Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia founder, hopes sites from Google to Twitter will join his protest against a legal crackdown

The founder of Wikipedia is leading calls for search engines and social media sites including Google, Facebook and Twitter to take themselves offline for an entire day in protest against a controversial bill winding its way through the US Senate that could have profound implications for the internet.

Jimmy 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 a much closer tab 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. Writing on his own blog, Mr Wales asked followers to decide whether Wikipedia should do the same and initiate a "public uprising" against Sopa.

"Right now what I'm thinking is that if there is a credible threat that this might happen, this could have a positive impact on the thinking of some legislators," he said. "Do not underestimate our power – in my opinion they are terrified of a public uprising about this, and we are uniquely positioned to start that."

The vast majority of responses to the blog post were in favour of a one-day strike that would target all English-language sections of Wikipedia, which would mean the website would be temporarily unavailable in Britain.

Facebook, Twitter and Google, which have all publicly stated their opposition to Sopa, have yet to declare whether they will join Wikipedia. But many users are already planning to flood social networking sites tomorrow with information and links about Sopa and why it could be harmful for freedom of expression.

The growing movement of discontent appears to have rattled the White House, which has issued a statement suggesting President Barack Obama would be reluctant to sign the bill in its current form.

"We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet," the White House said, adding that online piracy needed a "serious legislative response" but one that must not "inhibit innovation".

What happens next is likely to depend on the efforts of competing lobbyists and whether enough steam can build up behind the online protest movement. Mr Wales is intending to meet senior politicians over the coming days to press for a more flexible piece of legislation but the media conglomerates that want to see a hard line from Capitol Hill are determined not to see their lobbying work stumble at the final hurdle.

It is not the first time Mr Wales has used the popular encyclopaedia he founded to make a political point. When legislation was put before the Italian parliament last year that would have forced websites to automatically delete any content that was flagged up as defamatory, Wikipedia hit back. For three days in October, visitors who accessed the Italian version of the site were only able to read a critique of the new legislation, which was quickly shelved after a growing public outcry.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Project Manager

    £55000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: iOS Developer - Objective-C

    £38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Design and build advanced appli...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent