Web blacklist legislation latest assault on free flow of information
by Steve Watson
The Stop Online Piracy Act is not intended to make the internet more secure or even to protect copyrighted material. Its sole purpose is to codify First amendment killing actions already being undertaken by an out of control federal government.
Media talking heads and bloggers alike continue to debate the technicalities of the legislation, however, it is clear that SOPA and PIPA, (Protecting IP Act) the Senate version of the bill, form a double pronged attack on the free and open internet. The bills constitute weapons of mass destruction in the infowar, a huge leap forward for the long running agenda to completely re-structure and centralize the internet under government control.
As detailed in depth in an excellent article today in The Globe and Mail, should the legislation be signed into law in January, it will provide the U.S. government, through the office of the Attorney General, the power to pursue court orders against any site believed to be engaging in or ‘facilitating’ ‘copyright infringement’. The problem being that the bill’s definition of such terms is so broad that entire web sites could come under threat of being effectively seized and shut down for merely displaying one offending hyperlink.
Some felonies under SOPA, such as “streaming copyrighted content” – again the terminology is vague at best – carry a five-year prison sentence.
As we reported back in October, the bill will also force compliance from search engines and Internet Service Providers, demanding they create a list of banned web sites and prevent their users from accessing the sites. Advertising networks, payment providers and credit card processors would also be ordered to stop doing business with any site deemed to be acting unlawfully under SOPA.
“…all those entities are compelled to comply. Indeed, the bill imposes stiff penalties on anyone who doesn’t, and offers immunity to ad networks and payment processors that follow orders. As such, SOPA is chock-full of incentives for ISPs, content-hosting sites and other such entities to go along with the government’s demands.” writes Omar El Akkad of The Globe & Mail.
SOPA is not legislating for anything that the government isn’t already engaged in carrying out. The Department of Homeland Security has already seized dozens of web sites merely for linking to copyrighted material, despite the fact that such material isn’t even hosted on the web site itself, a process the Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized as, “Blunt instruments that cause unacceptable collateral damage to free speech rights.” Most recently, the DHS seized a popular music blog and shut down the web site for over a year on charges it now admits were completely false.
Under SOPA, even domain name server (DNS) forwarding, a core functionality of the internet as a whole, would have to be suspended for any site accused of “piracy”. Enacting the legislation would constitute a massive internet-wide operation, and may be part of the reason why backlash, even corporate backlash, is continuing to grow against it.
Furthermore, experts contend that anyone who is determined to download pirated content from a forbidden site could easily switch their computer settings to bypass SOPA restrictions, by using a foreign-based DNS, for example.
In short, intense lobbying from the entertainment industry, urging the government to protect copyrighted content, is being used as yet another front by an establishment hell bent on restricting freedom of speech and the free flow of information to ramp up a long running crack down on the internet.
As we have ceaselessly documented, legislation is being drafted left, right and center in an effort to ensure complete control over cyberspace.
Lawmakers like Senator Joe Lieberman have teamed up with Department of Homeland Security officials to push draconian legislation in an effort to mimic the Communist Chinese system of policing the Internet.
Legislation such as The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act is written around the notion that big government decides who can say what on the web. The nightmare vision provides the President the power to shut down the entire Internet with a figurative flick of a switch.
Simultaneously, legislation such as The Cybersecurity Act and the “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011″ propose allowing the federal government to tap into any digital aspect of every citizen’s information without a warrant. Banking, business and medical records would be wide open to inspection, as well as personal instant message and e mail communications.
The push to restrict and control the internet, as we have repeatedly warned for years, is being pursued by an elite few petrified at the fact that alternative and independent sources of information are now eclipsing corporate and government controlled outlets in terms of audience share, trust, and influence.
Regulation and censorship of the Internet would not only represent a massive assault on free speech, it would also create new roadblocks for e-commerce and as a consequence further devastate the economy. The move should be met with fierce opposition at every level and from across the political spectrum.