In case you haven’t heard, several large websites have blacked themselves out today to protest two pieces of anti-piracy legislation now before the U.S. Congress.

Leaving aside the merits of their arguments, which I think outweigh the merits of the legislation’s advocates’ arguments, I’ve got two questions.

1. Will Wikipedia’s 24-hour disappearance have a material effect on anyone’s life? (I’m talking about you, students and journalists.) If so, that’s pretty amazing — given how preposterous the very concept of Wikipedia seemed not too long ago.

2. Will the web blackout become a prominent new form of social protest? As a long-time resident of America’s capital city, I’m convinced that the “March on Washington” technique passed its sell-by date last century. If this is the replacement, or even a quasi-replacement, then we’re watching history in action.

Maybe we’ll know the answers tomorrow. At the very least, we’ll be able to finally find out the capital of Slovakia.

9 Responses to “Tomorrow’s classroom excuse: SOPA ate my homework”

  1. Richard says:

    1. In so far as anyone relies on Wikipedia exclusively for anything at all, and cannot wait 24 hours, this will still only have a material effect on those stupid enough not to be able to follow Wikipedia’s own instructions on how to circumvent their self-censorship.

    2. I’d say it’s quite prominent already, however if you’re asking whether it’s likely to be repeated successfully, I’d say its effect will diminish over time as people get used to the tactic.

  2. Scott says:

    fr.wikipedia.org + google translate for the win. But yeah, a day without wikipedia would be a dark day.

  3. Chris says:

    The black-out is certainly getting a lot of media coverage, so to that extent it is working. I’ve already found it slightly inconvenient not to be able to ‘just look something up’, but no great hardship so far.

    A colleague asked me what “SOPA” meant. Interestingly, the only English language page I’ve found that Wikipedia hasn’t blocked is the entry on SOPA! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOPA

  4. Jim says:

    Wikipedia is valuable, but not the sole source of info… The web is too large for any one site blackout to matter…

  5. Nate says:

    My students are struggling today!

    “No wikipedia?! You mean, I might actually have to look in a BOOK to find an answer?”

  6. Caspar Green says:

    Of course the blackout is only an inconvenience. But it’s the inconvenience that’s the point. It gets people’s attention, which (as Seth Godin would say) is the most valuable asset. So, yes, it’s working. And, yes, it’ll probably happen again.

  7. Janice Cohen says:

    Hopefully, there’s a bigger question then “are we more then inconvenienced?”. How do we protect the rights of artists, etc? Who can put their mind to work on creating the balance instead of enhancing the battle lines? Any takers?

  8. Alexis Robin says:

    I use Wikipedia daily. I’ll miss it and yes, getting cut off from the web is like being 16 and having your parents take away your cell phone for a day. Great form of protest.

  9. Annie says:

    I think what would be really effective is to shut down Congress’ wi-fi for a day.

    But then again, I wonder if they’re really that tech savvy. (Hmmm)

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