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Congress Wants to Censor the Internet. Tell Them No.

November 16, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The internet is the most important innovation for democracy of our time. With the internet citizens are empowered to be creators of information, not just passive consumers, and they’re networked so exchange happens peer-to-peer, not through some central authority. These properties threaten the model of control that has long been pushed by authorities, be they corporate or governmental.

The fight over openness on the internet is a fundamental struggle about who has power in society. Today in the United States, the House of Representatives is taking a major step towards creating the first ever U.S. internet censorship system, using the same DNS technology that China uses for censorship. The bill is called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it would allow the government to demand ISPs and search engines to block websites and give private companies power to cut off access to sites without taking legal action. It’s receiving a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today and is expected to get a vote in the full House soon.

The bill threatens every site that allows users to post content by undermining long-standing DMCA safeharbors that currently protect sites that operate in good faith to remove copyright-infringing content. Under the language of the bill, a single infringing link posted by a user to would be enough to allow the government or a corporation to shut down the entire site. What makes the bill an especially powerful tool for censorship is that it gives legal immunity to companies that cut off sites as long as they have a “reasonable belief” that the site contains infringing material, or even if they believe the site is not doing enough to fight infringement. (For a more detailed rundown of problems and implications of the bill, see this 2-page summary from the Center for Democracy and Technology.)

The powers of the Stop Online Piracy Act are aimed exactly at the aspects of the internet that give it its democratic power. If it becomes law, our platform for decentralized, vertical exchange of ideas falls under the grips of the old power structures it threatens. This is the most important piece of internet legislation in U.S. history.

The Participatory Politics Foundation is proud to be a part of the American Censorship Day coalition. Please join us in taking action to stop this bill today. If you have a website of any size, add the Censorship Day splash page to spread this to your audience (info here). In addition, we urge you to take a minute to contact your members of Congress and tell them that you oppose this bill.

As it stands, this bill is going to become law very soon. Congressional leaders from both parties and in both chambers support it, and it has backing from big-money campaign donors from unions to Hollywood to financial companies. If we don’t fight back right now, the internet will forever be a less open, more censored space.

Full disclosure: I serve on the Board of Fight for the Future, which organized American Censorship Day. 

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Comments

  • epicism 11/16/2011 10:49am

    This is utter nonsense. Piracy is a marginal problem, as evidenced by the record-breaking profits the content industry has been raking in for several years now. We can all agree theft is an issue, but doesn’t our congress have far more important matters to address? In case they missed it, the economy sucks; and that’s something only they can fix.

    If you’re reading this, you have a duty. Share OpenCongress with anyone who will listen. How we vote for our three congresspersons is of far greater consequence to our collective future than any other vote we will cast next year.

  • Comm_reply
    pfbruns 11/17/2011 10:26am

    I agree 100 percent. Plus, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but this terrible legislation would contravene that long-held tenet of American law. Then, of course, there’s the terrible impact on our First Amendment rights.

    We must all fight this law, and vote down anyone in Congress who supports it.

  • Comm_reply
    Gabitza 05/12/2012 2:05am

    I definitely don’t feel that Congress should step in and control the internet. If they do say goodbye to democracy, we will then become a communist country being controlled by one type of government! Leave the Internet alone Congress!!!! Mold on Carpet

  • rebeccam 11/17/2011 10:22am

    I just find it funny how the congress is more worried about piracy than our own economy.

  • CurtisNeeley 11/17/2011 6:35pm

    The Internet that is unregulated is already illegal and will be ordered regulated or censored by the FCC. This has been their mission by law since 1934. I have demanded the United States Courts order the FCC to begin regulating wire communications even if called the Internet for disguise.
    Appellant Brief
    I do not believe “Open Congress” should take a side as they are clearly doing now.

  • Comm_reply
    Stephen89 11/30/2011 12:38am

    The FCC should not have the right to regulate the internet just as much as congress or the DoJ or copyright holders, nobody should have that power, the internet is a global thing, If you want to live in a fascist nation go ahead and move to one. Don’t try to take away peoples right to free speech and and a free internet.

  • Comm_reply
    CurtisNeeley 11/30/2011 1:20pm

    Any more obvious this bill is so long overdue that courts are soon going to force this issue if NOT PASSED?
    Neeley v NameMedia Inc., et al, (5:09-cv-05151)(11-2558) 8th circuit
    PDF APPELLANT BRIEF (56 pages)
    PDF APPELLEE BRIEF of NameMedia Inc (19 pages)
    PDF APPELLEE BRIEF of Google Inc (14 pages)
    PDF APPELLANT REPLY BRIEF (16 pages)
    8th circuit ruling PENDING NOW
    ACCESS for FREE above
    It will be dismissed soon to keep porn flowing by wire.

  • Comm_reply
    maclongen87 01/18/2012 2:16am

    The phenomenon of the internet can only be compared to the Industrial Revolution.
    It doesn’t discriminate against anyone, and can help with the carriage of Justice and Democracy (think about the New Years eve in Oakland where a police shot a man who was handcuffed and on the ground. It was caught on video and went viral, insuring justice was served). It can also help with disaster efforts. Do you think Japan would have gotten as much help as they did if images of the destruction were not accessible online?
    To say the internet is illegal is ignorant and Amero-centric. It’s ignorant because there has never been ANYTHING like it, so to call it “illegal” is just the same as saying “I don’t understand”, “I’m afraid”, or “I need to be in control”. America is not in charge of the internet. No country or government is. I don’t deny that it can be dangerous, but I am a firm believer in personal responsibility. I’m sick of the government trying to protect me over crap like this.

  • Comm_reply
    maclongen87 01/18/2012 2:19am

    In addition, Mr. Neely, how would your opinion get out if the internet were censored? I would bet my life savings that if the Bill was passed and executed (another thing, good luck getting people to comply with the bill) this site would be shut down pronto.

  • Pupsncats 11/18/2011 6:52pm

    This is one of the most insidious bills ever to be considered in our history. But we are living in a time where our governments have become soft tyranny’s, granting power to themselves like never before in history. When the government controls information, it controls speech. When it controls speech, one no longer has liberty. Fight this with every ounce of your being.

  • Spam Comment

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  • georgethegreek 05/07/2012 6:01am

    To say the internet is illegal is ignorant a. It’s ignorant because there has never been ANYTHING like it, so to call it “illegal” is just the same as saying “I don’t understand”, “I’m afraid”, or “I need to be in control”.
    αεροπορικα εισητηρια
    εισητηρια πλοιων
    φθηνα αεροπορικα εισητηρια
    ακτοπλοικα εισητηρια

  • georgethegreek 05/07/2012 6:02am
  • georgethegreek 05/07/2012 6:03am

    estruction were not accessible online?
    To say the internet is illegal is ignorant.
    αεροπορικα εισητηρια
    ακτοπλοικα εισητηρια

  • georgethegreek 05/07/2012 6:03am
  • georgethegreek 05/07/2012 6:03am

    To say the internet is illegal is ignorant.I totally agree with this statement. The Internet plays a vital role in business transactions and communication
    αεροπορικα εισητηρια

  • georgethegreek 05/07/2012 6:04am

    To say the internet is illegal is ignorant.I totally agree with this statement. The Internet plays a vital role in business transactions and communication

  • onlycube 11/26/2012 11:03am

    You are 50% right that" internet is illegal is ignorant and Amero-centric"that’s why congress is more worried about piracy than other piracy software :)

  • onlycube 11/26/2012 11:05am

    You are 50% right that" internet is illegal is ignorant and Amero-centric"that’s why congress is more worried about piracy than other.

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