Blackout on free knowledge

The IT city Bangalore responds to Wikipedia’s block on viewing online content and its impact.

Published: 19th January 2012 08:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:17 PM   |  A+A-


BANGALORE: In a protest against US anti piracy laws, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property N Act (PIPA), Wikipedia staged a 24-hour black out on Wednesday. Readers were greeted by an open letter encouraging them to contact the US Congress in protest. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, expressed serious concerns over the laws that would eventually lead to infringement of free expression. The IT city is questioning the relevance of freedom of expression. Software activists in the city help putting the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills in context.

 “Firstly, SOPA and PIPA are currently being projected as US laws. And a lot of people, especially in the Asian countries, think that it won’t affect them in any way. These laws will soon percolate down to our country too. In fact, the recent prosecution of Facebook and Google proves that. Internet is neutralised. People need to be able to have their own opinions. None should curb our freedom,” explains Raghavendra S, software activist and a member of the Free Software Movement of Karnataka.

In a country where misinterpreted quotes can lead to irrational behaviour, exposing uncensored content may lead to an increase in violence. However, it may also seem unethical to block all sources of information. While some consider Internet Censorship as an escalated abuse of Government power, others feel that a balance needs to be achieved in terms of information and knowledge sharing. “The 24- hour information black out serves as an excellent wake up call. In India, people are still under the impression that issues related to Internet affect the geeks only.

This is not true. With the whole Sibal comment and prosecution of various social networking websites; you can see the pressure building up on intermediaries to regulate the Internet. Taking down information or pre-screening of content and the terminologies used to justify these actions (for instance blasphemy) goes much beyond our constitutional framework. These developments will have a huge impact on us,” said Siddharth Narayan from Alternative Law Forum. Expressing his concern over the entire issue, he added, “People do not realise the seriousness of the situation.

A black out in one part of the world will have reverberations. Everything is connected. We need a policy that will take both technological as well as piracy problems into consideration. Nothing good will come out of a tight control over the internet. We require a more mature democracy with minimum regulation. These are issues we are all grappling with.” Though the website was down for 24 hours, it was still possible to access content via several ways including pressing the Escape key several times. Also the difference in the time zones made the website accessible in other parts of the world.

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