Wikipedia is blacked out across Europe in protest against laws that could change the internet forever

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
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Stephane Mahe/Reuters

  • Wikipedia’s Spanish, Italian, and Polish language versions was blacked out in protest against new EU copyright reforms being voted upon on Thursday.
  • The new laws could force websites like Reddit to filter user content for copyright breaches and impose a “link tax” on companies including Google for linking to publishers.
  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales urged people to oppose the reforms. He believes they will benefit tech giants like Facebook and Google that can afford to implement the filtering software.

Wikipedia temporarily shut down in Spain, Italy and Poland in protest against new EU copyright reforms due to be voted upon on Thursday, designed to enforce copyright law online more stringently.

The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee backed the changes last month, including article 13 which would force websites like Reddit to build “content recognition technologies” to scan for copyrighted images, videos, and posts.

Equally contested is article 11, which could impose a “link tax” on companies including Google for linking to publishers.

Wikipedia users in Spain, Italy and Poland were taken to a page protesting the changes. In other EU countries, including the UK, Wikipedia erected a banner at the top of the site urging people to oppose the reforms.

This message is at the top of Wikipedia in the UK.

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This message is at the top of Wikipedia in the UK.
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Wikipedia

Clicking on “contact your MEP” takes you through to a website telling you about the new laws and giving you details of how to contact your MEP. In Britain, the website is entitled changecopyright.org, although Spanish readers are taken to saveyourinternet.eu.

Some were confused as to why only certain European countries had their Wikipedia sites blacked out. Founder Jimmy Wales explained on Twitter that each individual language version decided for itself whether to shut down.

The European Commission tweeted at Wales, saying that Wikipedia and other online encyclopedias wouldn’t be affected by copyright proposals.

Wales said he found this unconvincing and accused the Commission of “misleading” the public.

On BBC Radio 4 on Thursday morning, Wales said it is important that artists get paid for their work, but warned of the knock-on effects of the proposed regulations.

“One of my biggest concerns with the mandated upload filters is it would just be entrenching the power of Google and Facebook who already have the technical capacity to do this sort of thing, and smaller players, start-ups, all the other platforms people are using, are gonna be a bit shut out,” he said.

The EU Parliament will vote at noon on Wednesday.