Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx), who is leading a push to pass a controversial anti-piracy bill, issued a statement today scolding Wikipedia over its plan to go dark with its English-language website for 24 hours in protest of the legislation.
The statement also suggests that supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are preparing to go back on the offensive after a series of setbacks in the last week:
It is ironic that a website dedicated to providing information is spreading misinformation about the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill will not harm Wikipedia, domestic blogs or social networking sites. This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts. Perhaps during the blackout, Internet users can look elsewhere for an accurate definition of online piracy.
In a separate release, Smith said the House Judiciary Committee would go forward with a mark-up of the legislation in February.
Smith’s announcements are the latest twists in a months-long dust-up over a proposed law that would require internet companies like search engines and ad networks to help cut off so-called “rogue” foreign websites. Critics say the law is overreaching and will harm free speech and the architecture of the internet.
The bill appeared to be headed for defeat this weekend after the White House expressed doubt about its merits and Smith said he would remove controversial provisions involving internet domain names.
But on Monday, Wikipedia announced it would go forward with a rumored plan to “go dark” for 24 hours to protest the bills. But the blackout apparently does not extend to non-English Wikipedia sites. The blackout is slated to begin at midnight on Wednesday and will be joined by other sites popular with tech aficionados.
Wikipedia’s decision has already proved controversial. It’s unclear if the SOPA sponsors are treating Wikipedia’s move as a political opening to marshal support for the bill or if they planned to go forward all along.