Wikipedia formally announced Monday night that the site will “go dark” this week to protest proposed anti-piracy legislation. The online encyclopedia also erected a stark black banner across its website.
The move comes after a series of tweets on Monday afternoon by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales that the site would go forward with the blackout plan for 24 hours starting on Wednesday at midnight.
The blackout will only apply to the English language version of the website according to a press release which added that the unprecedented decision came after a consultation with 1800 “Wikipedians.”
“The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills,” said the release, referring to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its sister bill in the Senate known as Protect IP.
The proposed legislation is nominally about stopping “rogue” foreign websites from selling pirated US goods. But critics say the bills amount to censorship and risk harming the architecture of the internet. Over the past months, the dispute has mushroomed into the largest intellectual property fight in Washington in more a decade, and has created an ugly spat between California’s technology and movie industries.
Critics of the bill appeared to have won a significant victory in the last few days after SOPA’s sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Tx) agreed to remove controversial provisions and the White House issued a weekend statement questioning the legislation’s viability.
Rumors about an “internet blackout” on January 18 have been swirling for weeks and Wikipedia’s decision to participate will likely push what has been a relatively esoteric technology debate into the mainstream media.
There have been rumors that Facebook and Google (NSDQ: GOOG), who have also stridently opposed the legislation, would participate in the January 18 blackout but neither company have stated anything to this effect.
Today, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo suggested it was not practical for his site to follow Wikipedia. “That’s just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.”
Wikipedia’s black banner also includes a countdown clock showing time left until the site goes dark. It is not clear what the homepage will display during the blackout period.