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SOPA blackout: What happened to Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is offline today. Here's why. 

By Matthew Shaer / January 18, 2012

Not today.

Yves Herman/Reuters

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Well, it's not quite doomsday, but for plenty of Wiki-trawlers worldwide, it's lights out.

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Today, Wikipedia – that vast, crowd-sourced online encyclopedia – has gone dark, in a protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, two bills currently under consideration in the US House of Representatives and Senate, respectively. In a press release, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales railed against the legislation, which he said threatened the "free and open internet." 

"Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," Wales wrote. "This is an extraordinary action for our community to take – and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."

SOPA, which was first introduced in October, and PIPA, first introduced last May, are both aimed at stopping Internet piracy and copyright infringement. But both bills have drawn the ire of a range of tech companies, including Yahoo, Twitter, and Google, who have argued – like Wales – that the legislation would be unnecessarily restrictive. 

Debate on SOPA is technically on hold until next month, but a vote on PIPA is scheduled for Jan. 24, ABC reports

Hence the blackout. 

Of course, as Jared Newman writes over at Time, there are plenty of ways to survive the Wikipedia blackout. Among them: Download the entire database from Pirate Bay (not advisable), access an online mirror site, or log onto one of the Wikipedia alternatives, such as Encyclopedia.com.

We didn't think so. 

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