At Wikipedia, one of the corest of core values is Neutral Point of View, contributors' collective goal of "representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources."
NPOV is the principle that, when realized, allows the millions of articles that live under Wikipedia.org's massive domain to act not just as freewheeling repositories of knowledge, but as authoritative repositories of that knowledge. And so: NPOV is "non-negotiable," Wikipedia says, "and all editors and articles must follow it."
So! The decision to make English Wikipedia dark tomorrow -- to go from no POV to whoa, POV -- wasn't one that Wikipedians took lightly. It was, on the contrary, like almost everything that happens on Wikipedia, the result of extensive deliberation and debate. It was agonized over. Like, agonized.
The debate started with a straw poll Jimmy Wales sent out to the community back in December, looking at the success of an October blackout protest in Italy and asking whether, in the U.S., the same self-inflicted boycott could make an effective protest against SOPA. The replies to that request reflected the community's desire to explore a blackout in a more structured way, leading the Wikimedia Foundation, on Friday, to launch an official call for comment on a proposed blackout.