Tonight Wikipedia is scheduled to go down for 24 hours, prompting somewhat of a media frenzy. TIME has, in fact, released an article about "how to survive Wednesday's Wikipedia Blackout". As one of the most popular sites on the internet, Wikipedia is more that just a go-to for information on science, history, and popular culture: it acts as a portal for the international community to share knowledge.
It is no secret that totally love Wikipedia: it is perhaps one of the greatest things the internet has to offer. While there are many sites out there that garner a lot of traffic, like Twitter, Google, and YouTube, Wikipedia is free of advertising and there is no need to sift through junk. The internet revolution has brought democracy to our day-to-day lives in ways that we never could have imagined. This morning I watched a new video about Oscar-winning films that is going viral. After watching this, I thought of how media like this would have been produced and consumed a decade ago. While something like this would have been produced by a major television network and only could have been viewed at scheduled times on the air, it is now created by anyone with vision, ambition, and resources, and can be viewed by virtually anyone, anywhere.
One of the major ramifications of this democratisation movement has been trying to figure out copyright laws. That is, in fact, why Wikipedia is shutting itself down for 24 hours. In the United States (as well as many other jurisdictions), pressures from governments have led to various websites and forms of media to be closed and taken down. Wikipedia's management have termed these attempts to regulate the internet "censorship" and have decided that it is time to raise awareness.
What I find particularly interesting is that censorship legislation has always been framed as affecting filesharing sites (such as the Napster suit from over a decade ago). However, many industries, like publishers, are suffering lower sales as a consequence of sharing information on the internet (think of how Sparks Notes has been effectively replaced by Wikipedia). The influence of these industries on government through lobbying and through sponsorship is immense and not to be taken lightly.
The battle between the regulatory aims of state-corporate partnerships and the democratic people of the internet has been raging for as long as the internet has been a household item. It's truly a battle of capital versus the freedom to share. In the context of personal liberty, or in the interests of building communities of knowledge, the democracy of the internet is something that needs to be vehemently defended.