Congress Attempting to Censor the Internet
Whether you are shopping online for future Black Friday Sales or tracking which city Occupy Wall Street has taken over today, you might have missed out on a pretty big piece of news that is only now starting to snowball into headlines. On November 16, 2011 Congress opened the floor for discussions on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (similar variation of the bill in the Senate). If you utilize the Internet by any means these days, then this legislation could alter the way you explore the Internet.
This bill would give the Department of Justice the power to shutdown websites dedicated to ‘infringing activities.’ Any association to said website would then be notified and threatened with a fine or shutdown, whether it was linked or advertised on a search engine such as Google, or used on a social media site such as Facebook or Tumblr. In some cases, sites would be taken offline without the alleged infringer to defend themselves in court. The idea is that these actions would prevent websites beyond jurisdiction of the United States or operating outside our country would be slowly blocked.
This legislation is absolute, because it will affect every individual who uses a social networking site, or operates a blog or a website. The idea behind this legislation is so that the Music and Entertainment studios can prevent copyright infringement, when there are already laws present allowing them to shut down certain sites, and block websites to prevent this action. These studios can also sue any websites which are associated with copyright infringement, but this legislation takes it ten steps further.
Internet security could also be at risk. I work in the computer IT field, and deal with networking issues and security issues all day. However, the loosely defined written structure of this bill would indeed allow certain government watchdog agencies to undermine the Internet itself. They will be meddling with servers and protocols that they shouldn’t, and could leave security holes. They have no intent in doing so, but they could inadvertently be destabilizing the security of various websites, corporations, and servers.
If the Occupy Wall Street crowds knew about this legislation, they would probably stop protesting the redistribution of wealth and start protesting Congress’s attempted censorship of freedom on the Internet. The Internet is a robust medium where people can express themselves, reinvent themselves, protest and argue opinions. This laws intent is to stop copyright infringement, but it is infringing on our rights as citizens.
Listed below are links to various websites where you can learn more about these laws, and what you can do to help.
American Censorship Homepage – Website detailing American Censorship Day, which was Nov. 16, 2011. Also has a plethora of information on laws, news coverage, reactions from various people, and is supported by various organizations such as Mozilla.
Online Petition at Whitehouse.gov to Stop this Bill (34,000+ Signatures) – A petition with plenty of signatures that originates on the whitehouse.gov website, and if a petition reaches a certain number of signatures, the White House issues a response (or so they say).
OPENCONGRESS Information about Protect IP Law – Website that allows you to read the entire law, has updates on news coverage, and allows you to see its progress in Congress.
OPENCONGRESS Information about SOPA – Same website as above except with the SOPA law.
Facebook, Google team up to stop this law (Mashable) – A Mashable article on how Facebook and Google are protesting this law.