This Blog Rules usually doesn’t engage in activism (we’re a humor/cool art/entertainment blog), but Congress may be about to do something horrible. On Wednesday, Congress could vote to create America’s first Internet censorship system, which would allow the government to block Americans from visiting any website with content that the government doesn’t like. This would annihilate Internet freedom as we know it in America, making us no different than China, Syria, or [insert your totalitarian regime of choice here] when it comes to how we treat our Internet companies and Internet users. The bill, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA–which translates to “garbage” in Swedish ironically–is backed by major media companies like Viacom and Disney and has a great deal of support in Congress, meaning that it likely will pass through the House…unless we stop it. The bill has several nightmarish qualities to it. Let’s cover them in bullet point form:
–It would become a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to stream copyrighted work online without a license, even if you are a noncommercial user. Singing a popular rock song on youtube for instance, would now be a felony. That means that youtubers like Ricky Ficarelli would be committing a felony each time they upload a video, unless they want to pay more than $2,500 in licensing fees.
–The government would be given license to force Internet service providers to block websites if the sites contain links to material that infringes on copyright. So, if the government wanted, it could force an ISP to block say, Facebook, just because a couple of users posted links to copyright infringing material on their Facebook walls.
–Only a judge’s signature would be required to force financial institutions and ad networks to stop doing business with websites deemed to be “rogue.”
Hey, is it just me or does SOPA smell like it violates the due process clause of the constitution? It doesn’t require someone to go to court and prove through a trial that a website is illegally hosting content. Instead, it immediately places the burden on the accused to prove that they are not illegally hosting the content. So, yes, SOPA effectively throws the due process clause of the constitution out the window.
It also throws Internet security out the window. Stewart Baker, the former policy director of the Department of Homeland Security, wrote that SOPA would “do great damage to Internet security,” and Sandia National Laboratories, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, wrote a letter to Congress in which it notes that SOPA would 1.) not be effective and 2.) damage U.S. cybersecurity. In a nutshell, the proposed law would leave Internet users more susceptible to cyberattacks, malicious hacking, and identity theft.
SOPA would be highly detrimental to the U.S. economy because entrepreneurs would have a disincentive to create Internet-based businesses. Why start a company if it can be sued out of existence or blocked by an ISP without due process of law?
So, what can we do to make sure this vile legislation doesn’t make it to the Senate? First, tweet about this post and spread it on Facebook and Google Plus. We need to inform as many people as we can about the horrors of the bill. Then, use the widget below to call your Congressman and tell them why you think SOPA is deeply flawed (if you don’t live in the U.S., you can also use this widget to petition the state department). After you put in your information, you will be supplied with a series of talking points, and you’ll be given your Congressman’s phone number.
If the widget above isn’t showing up, you can visit AmericanCensorship.org.
We must all do our part to preserve the sanctity of the Internet. Act now; we don’t have much time.
By Will Paoletto
Oh, and check out this video about how SOPA and Protect IP (the Senate version of the bill) wrecks the net: