CAIRO - Online encyclopedia Wikipedia took its English-language content offline on Wednesday, January 18, in protest at a new anti-piracy legislation in the United States, a move rejected by major websites.
"Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open internet, reads a Wikipedia message cited by The Guardian.
For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.
Users trying to access the online encyclopedia see a black screen and a political statement: "Imagine a world without free knowledge."
The user-generated news site Reddit, the blog Boing Boing and director Michael Moore's website also took part in the blackout.
The blackout is in protest at two Congress legislations, the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), to fight online piracy.
The bills propose jail terms for people found guilty of streaming copyrighted content without permission.
They also propose shutting down sites that are found to be enabling or facilitating piracy.
Boing Boing blog warned that the proposed legislation "would certainly kill us forever".
Wikipedia says that the bills will not be effective in fighting copyright infringement.
"They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites.
Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed.
'Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.
But major websites have declined to join the Internet blackout, preferring to only show pages slamming the legislation.
"The authors of the legislation don't seem to really understand how the internet works," co-founder of the WordPress Matt Mullenweg told the BBC.
WordPress's homepage displays a video which claims that SOPA "breaks the internet" and asks users to add their name to a petition asking Congress to stop the bill.
Google is also showing solidarity by placing a black box over its logo when US-based users visit its site.
"Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet," said a Google spokeswoman.
"So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our US home page."
But some major websites declined to participate.
Microblogging service Twitter also declined to participate, with chief executive Dick Costolo taking on critics of the decision on Twitter over the weekend.
"Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish," Dic Costolo, chief executive of the microblogging service Twitter, wrote in a post.
Costolo followed up with a Tweet stating the company will continue to take an active role in opposing the bills.
"Watch this space," he tweeted.
A similar position was echoed by many big tech companies, including several who wrote to Congress in November to complain about the legislation, such as AOL Inc, eBay Inc, Mozilla and Zynga Inc.
"We are not adjusting the consumer experience on our properties tomorrow, but we will be helping to drive awareness of key issues around these bills to our users," said Tekedra Mawakana, senior vice president for public policy at AOL.In November, a number of technology companies wrote to key lawmakers expressing opposition to the bill, including eBay, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla.