SOPA sponsor and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) thinks Wikipedia's decision to shut down the U.S. version of its popular site is a stunt to garner attention. Smith continues to say that SOPA will not harm sites like Wikipedia, and will only target foreign websites identified as trafficking in counterfeit goods or copyrighted material. Wikipedia's protest will apply only to the English version of the online encyclopedia and will last for about 24 hours. Wikipedia is the fifth or sixth most visited site in the U.S. depending on what research firm's data you look at. Suffice to say, its services being shut down will be noticed.
“It is ironic that a website dedicated to providing information is spreading misinformation about the Stop Online Piracy Act," Smith said in a statement on Tuesday. "The bill will not harm Wikipedia, domestic blogs or social networking sites. This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts. Perhaps during the blackout, Internet users can look elsewhere for an accurate definition of online piracy."
To answer Smith’s question: they could have learned about SOPA and PIPA from network and cable news, but stakeholders from the entertainment industry (who own those networks) have had their own blackout on these bills for quite some time (I can count on one hand the number of times SOPA has been talked about on Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, etc.). If not for the Fifth Estate (the Internet) no one in America would know about it at all.