No malicious intent, Monday’s Wikipedia blackout explained

Sources from Wikimedia, the firm behind online reference work Wikipedia, have ruled out suggestions of malicious intent following Wikipedia’s blackout on Monday.

Two accidentally cut cables near Wikimedia’s Florida-based data centre caused Wikipedia to go offline making the site and its associated services to be inaccessible for nearly two hours, it is explained.

The cables, stretching from Virginia and Tampa, were cut for more than an hour and after they were repaired, it took another one hour for the site to be restored, resulting to the estimated 2-hour blackout.

However, Wikipedia’s mobile site seemed to have remained unaffected although the service’s application programming, API, went on suffering from failures even after the main site had been restored.

Wikimedia has two major centres, one in Virginia and the other in Florida. Some network proxies are based in Amsterdam.

According to David Gerard, a UK spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, while speaking to the BBC, the firm’s “limited financial resources, some of its infrastructure relied on gaffer tape and string,” making it possible to cut the cables accidentally.

The online encyclopedia is heavily used the world over for fast access to information. In Africa, Twitter users took to the microblogging site to express protests over the Wikipedia blackout on Monday.

This is not the first time Wikipedia has gone offline. In January this year, the site blacked out to protest against anti-piracy laws, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), debated in the United States. Although Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s co-founder, defended the decision to blackout the website worldwide, other American technology firms, including Twitter, refused to follow suit.

This month’s blackout comes nearly a week following the resignation of Wikimedia’s chairman Ashley van Haeften responsible for promoting Wikipedia in the UK after allegations of including pornography on the site.

Despite promoting itself as an exclusively educational resource site fit for students, Wikipedia hosts a swathe of explicit material. Reports suggest critics including Larry Sanger, a co-founder of the site, have argued against such materials calling for age controls or filters be introduced.

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