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Wikipedia (in English) is blacked out today because Wikipedia is protesting against a couple of proposed laws on the topic of internet piracy. Wikipedia feels that those laws, if passed, would constitute censorship of the internet.
Basically, the proposed laws are meant to make it easier for American copyright holders to prevent their products (music, movies) from being "shared" through various websites using programs like BitTorrent. Wikipedia feels that these laws would put too much of a burden on them and on other legitimate sites. The details are pretty complicated, but this is the basic idea. Wikipedia is trying to protect what it sees as the freedom of internet users. They feel that the laws would go too far and end up reducing people's ability to use the internet even if those people are not trying to access pirated material.
"Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia. Instead, you will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media."
The SOPA and PIPA bills in the House and Senate have vague language that can be left up to interpretation. By association, any website could be shut down by the US government if it decides to. Having a link to a site that is considered to be violating copyright laws may be interpreted as "associated" with.
There is also legislation in the works to, basically, give the President a "kill switch" on the internet, which should be alarming to citizens worldwide.
Needless to say, Wikipedia's efforts to stop SOPA and PIPA were successful. They will be back in another form, though.
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