Why Wikipedia Decided To Join The Blackout And Potentially Threaten Your Homework

Wikipedia prides itself on being neutral… so why is it taking itself down to protest something political? According to their official explanation of the protest decision, the members of the Wikimedia Foundation feel that “although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not.”

You can read the entire explanation here, but this is the part we like best:

Readers trust Wikipedia because they know that despite its faults, Wikipedia’s heart is in the right place. It’s not aiming to monetize their eyeballs or make them believe some particular thing, or sell them a product. Wikipedia has no hidden agenda: it just wants to be helpful.

That’s less true of other sites. Most are commercially motivated: their purpose is to make money. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a desire to make the world a better place – many do! – but it does mean that their positions and actions need to be understood in the context of conflicting interests.

My hope is that when Wikipedia shuts down on January 18, people will understand that we’re doing it for our readers. We support everyone’s right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. We think everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of subjects, even if they can’t pay for it. We believe in a free and open Internet where information can be shared without impediment. We believe that new proposed laws like SOPA and PIPA, and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States, don’t advance the interests of the general public.

The reality is that we don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the Internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms. Our concern extends beyond SOPA and PIPA: they are just part of the problem. We want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone.

We hope our readers feel the same way about Consumerist and our stand on this issue. We are a non-profit. We accept no outside advertising, we take no free samples, and we are against SOPA and PIPA. Our agenda is simply to help inform and entertain consumers.

Consumerist urges you to take a moment and contact your members of Congress. You can do so easily at the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Edit Your Comment

  1. sifr says:

    My hope is that when Wikipedia shuts down on January 18, kids will learn how to use libraries and synthesize information by themselves.

    • Kitamura says:

      If they actually took the site down maybe it could happen, but when all it takes is hitting the stop button on your browser before the overlay comes up, I doubt it’s going to be more than an inconvenience.

      • Andrew says:

        Or just disable/block Javascript on Wikipedia….

      • JF says:

        Maybe the point is only those without a modicum of actual ability to use computers and the internet would be the only ones stopped by this kind of legislation. Firefox already has work around plugins to get around the IP blocking by avoiding US DNS servers.

    • darcmosch says:

      Work smarter, not harder.

    • Yacko says:

      Wikipedia is just one resource on the Internet. No different than going to the library and hitting only the Britannica. It’s one voice. With Wikipedia you can clip pages and keep an electronic notebook. Then you can visit other websites based on your searches. With a library, you get to go to a drafty, creepy building to use a somewhat out of date reference source and then you have to type everything into your note/netbook or tablet. I am old enough to feel cheated by the Internet and computers because I had to do it the manual way back in the 60s/70s and would have given anything to boost my productivity and do it the current way.

      • RedOryx says:

        ” It’s one voice.”

        Actually, it’s not. That’s the problem with Wikipedia.

        To quote the always fabulous Michael Scott, “Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”

        • Jane_Gage says:

          The journal Nature found that Wikipedia was as accurate as Encylopeadia Briannica in 2005 (Malcom 2008).

  2. balthisar says:

    Google cache still works. I’ve had to look up Canada Goose and egg addling already today.

  3. mollyflogs says:

    I wonder how news stations will verify their facts today.

  4. TasteyCat says:

    Do kids really cite Wikipedia? It’s hardly neutral, though I suppose it’s a decent resource, when taken with a grain of salt.

    • Kuri says:

      Some do, though when I was in school teachers did their best to ban it’s use.

    • DarthCoven says:

      The best bet is not to cite the wiki article itself, but the sources at the bottom of every article.

      • daynight says:

        Yes, original sources are much better! And the context of the original source provides clarification of your areas of interest, too.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      No teacher should allow Wikipedia to be a valid citation, because it’s not first-hand knowledge, and it’s crowd-sourced. Therefore the information is not actually researched by the person writing it, and you cannot guarantee the accuracy.

      As stated below, the information in the cited articles at the bottom of the wiki page wouls be valid citations. But to be legit you’d need to read those books, not the wiki page.

      • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

        It would be valid to site the wikipedia page as a source along with other sources. you did do some research there after all.

    • EBounding says:

      Yes. Even back in 2006 during my college undergrad this guy was doing a presentation and verbally cited Wikipedia as his source. Embarrassing.

    • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

      smart ones find the references from there to the “legitimate” sources and site those. Wikipedia presents information in a way easy to digest/refer to even if it is incorrect.

    • RedOryx says:

      Yes. Yes they do.

    • kc2idf says:

      It is as neutral as the people who contribute. If you find something you think is not to your satisfaction, edit it.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      They do, although in most schools it’s discouraged. The links at the bottom of the page often lead to better information.

  5. sj_user1 says:

    Wikipedia is not blacked out.

    • Driblis says:

      en.wikipedia.org is. Not all wikis in all languages.

      And you have to have javascript on. And not NoScript.

  6. Velifer says:

    The funny thing is that SOPA will be even easier to bypass than the Wikipedia black screens.

    • daynight says:

      I am not clear what you mean. The operate of SOPA is to take a site off the web by means that are outside the control of the site itself. I can imagine that circumventing it would require a site to take technical solutions that would need to be active to the point where it is obvious that they are specifically dodging SOPA, as which point it is a cat and mouse game of tag, where the loser will inevitably be the site. I would love to be wrong about this. Can you explain a bit more?

      • ‚àûLoop says:

        Not quite. The operation of SOPA is to delist a site, not remove it. While it will be more difficult to track sites as they move, it doesn’t have to be any more difficult to access a delisted site in the short term.
        Since the site itself is not blocked, all you need to know to access it is it’s address (not domain name). Skip the lookup step. For example, consumerist’s IP address is currently
        Entering that into your browsers address bar will send you to the site for as long as it remains at that address. If you don’t want to enter the numbers, you can even configure your own host file to map consumerist.com to, the same way DNS would. You can find the IP address of any site in Windows by using nslookup from the command prompt. The other OSes probably have similar tools.

        • Hi_Hello says:

          I was thinking that too…but what if ISP are required by some new law to start blocking IP addresses? Everyone internet goes to their ISP’s gateway that can easily block any addresses.

    • Herbz says:

      On a similar note, PIPA/SOPA will not stop piracy.

      The efforts to stop piracy do not hurt pirates (because they will find a way)… it usually only hurts legitimate users of a site.

      Take DRM in video games…
      What is it that the pirates take out first when they make a game “pirateable”? …. the DRM.
      Torrents will not disappear from this, nor will Direct download sites, or usenet.

      All it will do is make legitimate uses of sites harder for regular users.

  7. Lord Percival Q. Pennyfeather, III says:

    Today, Wikipedia doesn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.

  8. Bog says:

    The Wikipedia “blackout” is actually really easy to workaround. Just use a script blocker like NoScript on FireFox and the black screen is gone. You get full access to content.

  9. sj_user1 says:

    Wikipedia chickened out. It is not blacked out. All you have to do is hit ‘esc’ before the page fully loads.