Google, Wikipedia, Twitpic and WordPress are just a few of the biggest online websites that have temporarily blacked out their pages in protest against the proposed SOPA and PIPA.  The legislation is designed to stop copyright infringement committed by websites.

But critics say it could also inhibit people's access to general information online – a move that could threaten the livelihood of the technology industry.

The most controversial site to black out is Wikipedia, which strives to "avoid advocacy, and we characterise information and issues rather than debate them".

Mixed reactions

Some people, like Wikipedia editor Robert Lawton, believe the protest threatens the company's creditility: "My main concern is that it puts the organisation in the role of advocacy, and that's a slippery slope… Before we know it, we're blacked out because we want to save the whales."

Twitter CEO, Derek Costello tweeted: "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."

Even News24 users have joined the debate:

TinyRamsamy suggested a more extreme form of protest: "Shutting down Wikipedia for 24 hours will achieve nothing. Rather get the interested service providers to shutdown all government sites in the world for 24 hours and then see the chaos."

Jeffrey added that this legislation will hamper access to information: "The potential precedent of these bills opens any and all governments to an almost Chinese-style censoring of public access to information. These bills should not pass."

Glen.E. Huysamer added: "To create art, music, films cost time, and money and for people to think that it is their 'human right' to steal that content, enjoy it without paying a dime is ridiculous… Large internet companies at present enjoy the present scenario because it drives traffic to their sites, it creates business for them, telecommunications companies love large downloads, it all adds to large revenues for them. The only ones out of pocket are the creative artists."

Should more stringent copyright laws be drafted for online publishers?