Posted by: Scott Groves | January 18, 2012

Wiki is dark –

I have mixed feelings tonight as the English version of Wikipedia.com goes dark.

I use Wiki a fair amount, I think it’s a great site and I appreciate the work this non-profit website does.  Over the last 10 years I have generally trusted what I read on the site and rarely feel that the articles are trying to influence my opinion on a given topic.

By going dark, the Wiki team is helping to bring important legislation to the forefront of public discussion at a time when our 24/7 new cycle is obsessed with the circus known as the Republican Presidential Primary.

You can read a quick update about the bill as it makes its way through Congress here.

Additionally, if you want some insight from the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, you can read his most recent interview with CNN here.

Frankly, I don’t know enough about the SOPA and PIPA bills to comment on their merits.   I highly doubt many of friends who are actively campaigning against the bills on Facebook have taken the time to read the entire bill or have the technical skills to truly understand the impact of what is being proposed.  Since I can’t speak intelligently about the contents of the bill, and don’t understand the technicalities of it, I’ll reserve comment until I can read more on the topic.

Generally, I take no issue with an organization or business using its influence to educate the public about legislation or assisting to get a specific political candidates elected.  Additionally, I generally take a very libertarian approach to business operations and think companies should be able to operate as they see fit.

However, I am concerned that a site, which has prided itself on its neutral presentation of facts, is now flexing its PR muscle based on what it “thinks” may happen with the passing of this bill.  Getting involved in politics and campaigning for the specific out-come of a specific piece of legislation is, in my opinion, a bad precedent for Wiki to set.

You can read Wiki’s official comments here.

Does this mean that Wikipedia and it’s community will start to more favorably write about political candidates who support Wiki’s stance on this issue?  Will Wiki, like so many other non-profits, become a funnel for donations to candidates who support their cause?  Will Wiki truly be able to stay neutral on the cataloguing of important information on issue that they are known to support or oppose?  Will Wiki start using this strategy the next time the Government is considering legislation it feels is “dangerous”?

These are all questions that should be asked of a company who prides itself on being a non-profit, non-political and non-bias repository or information.


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