Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

It's Interesting That Google Hosted Unblocked Wikipedia Pages During SOPA Protest

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 18, 2012

Wikipedia, which features at the top of many searches, blacked out its English-language site to protest the proposed SOPA legislation but the entire site was readily available on Google.

Visitors to Wikipedia were shown this page:

Even though Google is anti-SOPA, it chose not to support the Wikipedia blackout and provided a complete copy of the Wikipedia site.

Wikipedia devoted considerable resources to its blackout decision. Brian X. Chen reported in the New York Times:

...100 community members worked with 40 Wikimedia employees to prepare the blackout page. They discussed the design -- "The shadow design is more meaningful when the page is threatened to be engulfed by darkness," one member commented -- and how to make the page load. Over those 48 hours, they also programmed a tool that would let Wikipedia visitors search for their Congressional representatives to contact them about the bills.

On Tuesday night, as the clock reached 9 p.m. at the Wikimedia headquarters in San Francisco, its operations staff flipped the switch, changing a single line of code from "false" to "true." This locked all pages so they could no longer be edited. Then, right at 9, they activated the blackout page.


Google is Wikipedia's largest single source of traffic and a key ally in the anti-SOPA fight yet it chose not to support its blackout.

Here's Google's copy of Wikipedia pages in action:

Google's act of protest was a blacked out logo with a link to a single landing page:


Google probably has the most to lose if SOPA-like bills become law yet its support for the national blackout day was tepid and careful not to disrupt business.

Other companies weren't as timid, here's a set of randomly blacked-out search results from OpenDNS:


David Ulevitch, founder and CEO of OpenDNS wrote about the social responsibility he believes that companies with a large audience should bear:

"... we're fully aware it can, and will, create a frustrating experience both for our users, and for owners of websites being censored. But with 30 million+ users we have the equivalent of a megaphone on the Internet. We feel it's our responsibility to demonstrate the near-random methodology SOPA and PIPA propose to determine those websites contributing to piracy, and also what the Internet would look like if their fate was to be blocked."

Foremski'sTake: It's always encouraging to see a Silicon Valley exec that recognizes the relationship between responsibility and power on the Internet.


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