Online encyclopedia Wikipedia will black out its website tomorrow for 24 hours to protest anti- piracy bills under consideration in the US Congress, saying if passed, the "destructive" legislation will "endanger" free speech and impose censorship on international websites.
"In an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the US Senate," said a statement by Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Communications Jay Walsh.
Walsh said the legislation will "harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites in the US."
The decision to "go dark" came after three days of discussions by 1800 Wikipedians over proposed actions that the community could take against SOPA and PIPA, illustrating the "level of concern"
Wikipedians feel about the proposed legislation.
"The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation," said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.
Terming the shut down as an "extraordinary action" for its community, Wales said: "while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world."
Wikipedia urged citizens to make "your voices heard" by telling their political leaders they want the internet to remain open and free.
The California-based Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia.
According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation receive more than 474 million unique visitors per month. Wales wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter "Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!"
As of now, the shutdown is planned only for the website's US visitors. For the 24 hours that the site is down, visitors will see information about the legislation and how they can convey to their political representatives to stop the bills from being passed.
The two Congressional bills aim to curtail copyright violations on the Internet but have seen strong protests from the technology industry.
It received severe criticism from News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch who took to Twitter and accused President Barack Obama of giving in.
"So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," he posted on his Twitter feed.
Other websites like social news site Reddit and technology blog BoingBoing also plan to black out their sites tomorrow.