Wikipedia to shut down 24 hours to protest US legislation

Wikipedia will shut down its English-language website for 24 hours worldwide, starting at 5 am GMT on Wednesday, the collaborative online encyclopedia announced Monday.

The blackout will protest proposed US legislation that, if passed, will seriously damage internet freedom, the website said.

“If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States,” the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's parent organization, said in a statement.

Wikipedia said the two bills proposed in US Congress — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate — will be destructive if passed.

“Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. "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."

Wales confirmed the decision on Twitter early Tuesday.

Social news site Reddit, technology blog BoingBoing and other sites have also announced they will join Wikipedia's protest. Sites such as WordPress are giving members a widget to display to show their support.

It's unclear whether large internet companies such as Facebook and Google will participate.

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