* Founder says senses fear from officials due to blackouts
* Says won't dive into politics beyond Internet policy
* Would not oppose anti-piracy bill that does no harm
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, July 12 Wikipedia founder Jimmy
Wales said o n T hursday he hopes the online encyclopedia would
never have to go dark again, but it would if necessary to
protect the Internet from draconian policies that would harm
The site played a key role in stopping proposed U.S.
anti-piracy legislation in its tracks with a 24-hour blackout in
On Tuesday the Russian-language version of the site shut
down for a day in an effort to stifle legislation in Moscow that
would allow government officials to blacklist and block websites
without a court order. But Russian lawmakers still voted to
approve the law on Wednesday.
"It at least puts governments on notice that the Internet
community cares about these things, and they care enough to
actually do something about it," Wales said.
Wales, speaking at the annual Wikimania conference, said he
credits the U.S. blackout, in which bigger players like Google
Inc and Facebook Inc displayed censorship bars
and arguments against the bills on their websites, with
strengthening Internet companies' position to push back against
"When I go and visit government officials now, they're a
little bit afraid," he said.
But ultimately it is up to the online community to decide
how to move forward, Wales said, adding that he would like to
see the community engage in an open, friendly conversation to
define more broadly when the site should protest Internet policy
in the future.
Wales said it would be very risky for Wikipedia to get too
involved in political issues. But he said the site would take a
stand on matters that directly impact its work online.
The online encyclopedia, which is written and edited by
volunteers and has an estimated 365 million readers worldwide,
took a hard stance against the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA,
and Protect IP Act, or PIPA, in January.
Wales and others argued that the bills, designed to shut
down access to overseas websites trafficking in stolen content
or counterfeit goods, could undermine innovation and free speech
and compromise the Internet's functioning.
The legislation was a major priority for Hollywood, the
music industry, pharmaceutical companies and many industry
groups, which maintained that the proposed law was critical to
curbing online piracy they say costs them billions of dollars
Wales said that piracy is a serious problem and he would not
be opposed to some adjustments and tweaks to existing law to
crack down on thieves more efficiently.
"But in doing so, we cannot accept absurd, technologically
incompetent, draconian policies that will impact everyday
Internet users in a negative way," Wales said.
He cautioned against legislative solutions that try to lump
too many different types of problems together, such as selling
counterfeit prescription drugs that can cause death and
teenagers sharing songs with their friends.
"We have to really be on the lookout for power grabs in the
guise of solving what I think most people would agree is an
actual problem," he said.