SAVE THE INTERNET!  / WIKIPEDIA TRAFFIC SURGED DURING SOPA BLACKOUT

TORONTO, JANUARY 20, 2012 (PHNO @ SITE5) Graham McMillan (photo) - In an effort to combat online piracy, new legislation is being introduced in the U.S. Congress that will ultimately stifle future innovation and effectively lead to censorship of the Internet.

The most recent bill introduced this October is called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and it seeks to increase the powers available to fight piracy.

Although we believe that intellectual property should be protected, this specific bill is misguided and will ultimately have little to no effect on stopping piracy at a severe cost to Internet freedom.

SOPA would grant the U.S. government the ability to block almost any website on the Internet if the site is perceived to be an “infringing site.”

Search engines would be required to remove the site from their search listings and payment processors and advertisement networks would be forbidden from doing business with the site.

The bill provides little detail about what would constitute an infringing site, which makes the potential for abuse far greater.

We have already seen how these kind of systems can be abused. In 2010, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) mistakenly seized a domain name belonging to a music blog and labeled it as a “rogue site” — the domain name was not returned until a year later (source: http://nyti.ms/uF73mZ).

As any online business owner knows, the loss of their domain name is the loss of their online brand. Pirates will simply relocate their website to a domain outside the control of the United States, but a legitimate business would not survive being mistakenly added to this blacklist. This bill also calls into question the legality of many websites that exist today which are based largely around user-generated content.

You can help stop this legislation!

Please take a moment to call your representative in Congress to let them know how you feel about the Internet and how SOPA threatens the future of the Internet.

You can find contact information for your specific representatives here: http://www.contactingthecongress.org

Wikipedia traffic surged during SOPA blackout

By Athima Chansanchai

Despite a self-imposed blackout yesterday to protest SOPA/PIPA, Wikipedia's English language website attracted more traffic on Wednesday than the previous day, and millions learned about the proposed legislation.

In the 24 hours Wikipedia blacked out its content (though, as we told you yesterday, there were ways of getting around that), more than 162 million viewed the Wikipedia home page, through which more than eight million looked up their elected representatives' contact information via the tool provided there. (You can also find out via this U.S. House of Representatives link.)

As a result of Wikipedia and other efforts pointing voters to state reps, congressional websites were overwhelmed with traffic — enough to shut them down temporarily. By the end of the day, 18 senators defected to the other side of PIPA, no longer supporting it.

Wikipedia also found that, "At one point,#wikipediablackout constituted 1% of all tweets, and SOPA accounted for a quarter-million tweets hourly during the blackout."

In its post mortem of the blackout's effects, Wikipedia offers a FAQ for those interested in following the progress of SOPA and PIPA, which it says is not dead, "not at all."

One answer sums up Wikipedia's position on the proposed legislation: "These bills are presented as efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but in our opinion, they do so in a way that would disrupt free expression and harm the Internet."

More than 12,700 have commented on Wikipedia's blog post announcing the blackout.

Security company Zscaler tracked a "noticeable" uptick in unique visitors to the online encyclopedia in the first 8 hours of the Jan. 18, though "these additional visitors are not incurring that much more bandwidth for Wikipedia" in that there was "only a slight percentage increase in Wikipedia web transactions today."

So, people weren't going to Wikipedia to dilly dally — they spent time on fewer entries. At least in the first half of the day. (I'm sure news accounts like ours helped fill in the missing pieces.)

The top visited pages yesterday, besides the home page, was — wait for it — the SOPA initiative, as people were probably trying to figure out why they were being blocked from easy access to Wikipedia.

Zscaler dubbed such behavior as "online rubber necking." (I call it normal curiosity.)

Another set of statistics shows the dramatic interest in SOPA that culminated in yesterday's online stampede to find out more about it.

A Lithuania-based database engineer at Facebook, Domas Mituzas, who also does software development for Wikipedia, "put together a system to gather access statistics from Wikipedia's squid cluster" and a visualization of that data appears on this site.

There, you can search for any article in Wikipediaand find out how many page views it had in whatever month you choose in the drop down menu. For Jan. 2012, searches for SOPA on Wikipedia led to the article being viewed 653,058 times this month. On Jan. 18, it was viewed nearly 463,000 times, so that one day accounted for most of the views so far this month.

As you can see from the chart below, the page views on the day before, the 17th, was only 112,170.

Based on our informal poll from yesterday, the overwhelming majority of you weren't annoyed with the lack of easy access to Wikipedia yesterday (81 percent of 1,355 votes).

Obviously, those who wanted to get to it got to it yesterday, one way or another.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and Comcast/NBC Universal. Microsoft publicly opposes SOPA in its current form, while Comcast/NBC Universal is listed as a supporter of SOPA on the House Judiciary Committee website.)

How to access Wikipedia during the SOPA blackout By Athima Chansanchai

Those wondering how to get around the Wikipedia SOPA blackout can breathe a little easier: the crowd-sourced encyclopedia is still available through mobile versions, disabling Javascript or translating another language's version of it.

So really folks, there's no need to panic. You can still look up every little curiosity that crosses your mind if you try to following options (it helps if you have a smartphone or tablet):

•Download an app that can access Wikipedia, such as Wikidroid for Android, or Wikipedia Mobile for the iOS devices. I have Wikidroid on my Samsung Droid Charge and it was working fine this morning. (The apps also work while offline, too.)

•You can pull up the mobile version of the site, that seems to be functioning normally as well.

•For those who really want to see it on their laptops and desktops, you can disable Javascript. (Thanks to NewScientist for that resource.) You can pull up the main Wikipedia page and choose a different country to access, because only the English version is doing the blackout in protest today. If you are on the Chrome browser, it will ask you if you want the page translated. Answer oui. (Yes.) and voila (here), you have Wikipedia again. (I picked the French version because it's the second largest repository of articles, about 1.2 million, next to the English version, which has 3.8 million.)

•If this ever happens again, you can also go to the cached version on Google. (Open the preview and click on the cached link.) But let's hope Google isn't going through a blackout at the same time. (Heaven forbid.)

Some people, though, have become even more creative in the wake of the one day that people can't seem to live without Wikipedia. Just look at former "Jeopardy" champ and human encyclopedia @KenJennings and what he is willing to do to help people out:

Ok, ok, maybe that's not the way to go, but you've got to applaud the guy for some effort, right?

You can also turn to Twitter for help. The Guardian says it'll try to answer questions posted with the #altwiki hashtag, conscripting journalists from the Washington Post and National Public Radio to help, too.

The Guardian is going old school as well via Guardipedia, with editor Patrick Kingsley using Encyclopaedia Britannica and Who's Who to help folks who long ago ditched their volumes (or never had them).

Of course, you can go the old school route too, locally, and call your public library for help. Librarians are amazing resources and I'm sure they'd be glad to be of service since sites like Wikipedia have largely eliminated the questions that used to go their way.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and Comcast/NBC Universal. Microsoft publicly opposes SOPA in its current form, while Comcast/NBC Universal is listed as a supporter of SOPA on the House Judiciary Committee website.)

My mistake — the German version is the second biggest, not the French!

SITE 5, PHNO'S DOMAIN SITE HOST WILL STAGE PROTEST BLACKOUT VS SOPA

Many of you read my previous post about SOPA, The Stop Online Piracy Act, and how it poses a real threat to future freedom and innovation on the Internet.

Websites built around user-generated content, like Twitter or Reddit, simply could not exist if SOPA was law.

In order to increase awareness about the dangers of SOPA, many websites will be staging “blackouts” to show their opposition to SOPA and educating their visitors on this misguided legislation.

Site5 will be staging a blackout of our website on the 18th and 23rd of January and if you operate a website we encourage you to do the same!

If you are using WordPress there is a plugin that we are hosting which will allow you to easily display a message about SOPA to your visitors and customize the dates it will be shown.

You can view a preview of that message and the plugin can be downloaded directly from the WordPress website below:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sopa-blackout-plugin


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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