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Internet Freedom At Risk

by on December 4, 2011

This post is part blog, part PSA.

The US State Department is trying to push through a bill that could strip away almost all internet freedoms.

The bill is designed as the Stop Internet Piracy (SOPA) bill, but it’s so much more than that. And, according to a article on Al Jazeera English,   “it gives corporations unprecedented power to censor almost any site on the internet. And more vitally, it threatens the very sites and human rights activists that the State Department has previously pledged to protect.”

Essentially, it will allow private corporations to stop and block any website suspected of showing copyright materials. Which means, basically any website with any video, image, gif, reference, quote, song clip, etc. It could mean Google, Youtube, Tumblr, Twitter, Fanfiction.net, Livejournal, Facebook, and yes, WordPress. It means that, under the guise of “protecting copyright,” the government will be able to block any website it wants. Does this sound scary yet?

“One provision in SOPA allows the Attorney General to cut off sites from the domain name system, virtually disappearing them from the web – the “Internet death penalty” as many have called it. Foreign sites would have to submit to US jurisdiction to contest the Attorney General, a costly and timely process many will not be able to afford even if innocent. Another provision allows corporations to directly force payment processors and advertisers to cut off an alleged infringing websites’ money supply – even if only a portion of the site is infringing. Still another provision gives immunity to companies who voluntarily cut off suspected infringing websites with virtually no oversight.”

I say this with all honesty and confusion: What is our society coming to? I don’t mean to turn this blog into a soapbox, but censoring the internet? Really? China does that, and we berate them for it, and yet…

I just don’t know anymore. I really don’t.

What I am going to say is: Help stop it! Sign a petition. Here’s another good article with some great links to petitions to sign. Tell the government they can’t censor us!

Ok, I’m going to step off my soapbox now.

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6 Comments
  1. rkmattern permalink

    I saw Mozilla was promoting this on their homepage when you open their web browser, if you don’t have a homepage preset. At first I kind of just ignored it because it wasn’t that prevalent and I was skeptical of their message. It definitely is interesting how the government will speak out about China’s internet censorship but sometimes turn around and do the same thing. If this occurred there would definitely be a huge backlash from the American public. Although, it’s always hard to know exactly how much the government already tracks and how much they truly do know about our lives and what we do, not to say creepy.

  2. I agree Katie, especially because Hillary Clinton is the principal advocate of internet freedoms being a necessary democratic freedom all around the world. I also think that this is very interesting because there are viable alternatives to making such a dramatic copyright move, and the creative minds that made the material will probably not reap the benefits of this bill. One of the big issues I have is though some of the money earned by entertainment industry will get back to writers, musicians and other creative workers, it will be a very small amount compared with the additional cost to consumers who serve as the intermediaries. Copyright laws were made to protect those creative minds, so as I mentioned in class the Creative Commons license is a way for those creators to choose how they will protect and share their works to the public, not have a bill unwillingly imposed on them.

  3. lbruce permalink

    I feel like “they” are slowly chipping away at our freedoms–so slowly that no one will notice. The things is…it’s working. The other thing is…this is super scary and hugely hypocritical. I work at a human rights organization and I am constantly reminded of American hypocrisy on the issue of human rights by my international colleagues. All I say is, “I know.” Yeah, we can sign these on-line petitions, but I almost feel like it’s as effective as “liking” something on facebook (see: not-at-all proactive). Perhaps we need to go back to old-fashioned letter writing, or move on to internet blasts of why this is so wrong and potentially disastrous for the internet as we know it.

    I’d like to know who supports this and why? Who’s getting what money from whom?

  4. Alyah K. permalink

    I agree that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is not the answer. It goes too far and would effectively grant the government “permission to censor websites almost entirely, by blocking the domains of and links from search engines to sites suspected of hosting infringing content,” as The Atlantic recently reported. A new bill, tentatively being called OPEN, is expected to be introduced next week as an alternative to SOPA. Jonathan Zittrain, a professor and cofounder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, told The Atlantic that it’s unclear if the new anti-piracy legislation will be at all effective, since Congress has done much research into the issue. (Story link here: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/12/bring-anxiety-parade-sopa-alternative/45805/)

  5. John Jeff permalink

    Like everyone else I don’t believe SOPA is the solution to stopping online piracy. We discussed in class many weeks ago, how piracy to some extent contributes to the proliferation of content to reach those who lack the technology or capital to acquire content legally. While the legality of royalties and artistic integrity at the center of controversy allowing piracy may ultimately support the bottom line for artists as fans share music and later purchase albums or attend concerts…while this is an idealist notion I still think it is important to limit extensive anti-piracy policies so as to encourage networking that draws attention to similar content one may not have considered accessing.

  6. This is a little unrelated to your actual post, but I wanted to post here to give your group props (haha!) for your presentation this week. It was very enlightening to hear about Reality TV in a Middle Eastern context. This might have been outside of the scope of your group’s research since this woman is Pakistani, but have you heard of Veena Malik? I actually first learned about her in another SIS class last year. Anyway, she is a Pakistani actress who appeared on a Big Brother-like show in India. Her appearance caused much controversy and she apparently received death threats for her “immodesty”. She then had a really heated debate with a cleric that appeared on an evening Pakistani news program. I remember being shocked by this – I bet you already know about it but I’ll share the link anyway –>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5JOqZ-PnyQ

    Your group’s presentation reminded me about Veena Malik’s issue.

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