The threats in question are the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, two online piracy bills that have received plenty of US media attention over the past few months. The decision to blackout the site was based on a vote by 1,800 Wikipedia users. However, the blackout will only cover the English-language version of the site.
Wikipedia, a crowd-sourced, online repository of knowledge, currently sees roughly 16 million active daily users on its site as of January 2012. The English-language version of the site currently hosts roughly 3,848,642 articles as of January 17, 2012.
According to Wikipedia, the Stop Online Piracy Act is a bill that "would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immnity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement."
The Protect IP Act, also known in the US Senate as S. 968, is a proposed law with the stated goal of giving the US government and copyright holders additional tools to curb access to "rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods."
Critics of the legislation, including ourselves, say the legislation could hurt the information technology industry and would raise security concerns pertaining to corporate cybersecurity, domain access rights and may challenge intellectual property rights by creating unbalanced leverage among corporations and copyright holders.
"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States," the Wikimedia foundation said. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said this morning that he hopes the site blackout "will melt phone systems in Washington."
The Wikimedia Foundation's official statement regarding the blackout can be found here.