Wikipedia went dark, Google blotted out its logo and other popular websites planned protests today to voice concern over legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on online piracy.
Wikipedia shut down the English version of its online encyclopaedia for 24 hours to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Google placed a black redaction box over the logo on its much-visited US home page to draw attention to the bills, while social news site reddit and the popular Cheezburger humour network planned to shut down later in the day.
The draft legislation has won the backing of Hollywood, the music industry, the Business Software Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce.
But it has come under fire from digital rights and free speech organizations for allegedly paving the way for US authorities to shut down websites accused of online piracy, including foreign sites, without due process.
“For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopaedia in human history,” Wikipedia said in a message posted at midnight (0500 GMT) on its darkened website.
“Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”
The founders of Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo! and other Internet giants said in an open letter last month the legislation would give the US government censorship powers “similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.”
“We oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” a Google spokesman said Tuesday.
Reddit said it will shut down for 12 hours — from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (1300 GMT to 0100 GMT) — to protest the legislation.
News Corp. chief executive Rupert Murdoch, who backs the US legislation, accused the “blogosphere” of “terrorizing many senators and congressmen who previously committed” to supporting it.
“Nonsense argument about danger to Internet. How about Google, others blocking porn, hate speech, etc? Internet hurt?” he wrote on the popular micro-blogging website.