New Bipartisan Bill Will Allow U.S. Gov’t To Shut Off Any Website, Anywhere, For Any Reason

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And that was the last day anybody could get Wonkette.com to show up in a browser.You know how the politicians are always saying we need to be competitive with China? Well, we are about to get super competitive when it comes to internal censorship of the global Internet. Everybody except for a handful of malcontent “privacy activists” is behind the bold new plan to make all Internet service providers in the United States turn off any domain within five days, if Washington says “turn it off.” As usual, this new legislation is cloaked in bullshit terminology about copyright and lost profits for media conglomerates, but the result is exactly the same as China’s “great firewall” — except, this being the land of “corporations are people, my friends,” the ISPs will be responsible for the dirty work instead of some top-level government technological agency.

Via Cryptogon, here’s the relevant chunk of the legislation:

A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address. Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

How? The whole Internet domain system requires a constantly updated Domain Name Server database that connects your computer to whatever server holds your “Tranny Hunter” porn or Communist Revolution/Buffy slash-fiction forum. Your ISP might be Verizon or AT&T for your “smart phone” or it might be dial-up AOL for confused old people who still have $9.95 a month charged to their Discover card. Either way, the ISP “resolves” the domain name you’re trying to reach with the computer servers that have that content, wherever it might be. (All you actual tech people in the comments can correct this if necessary.) So when the Government sends a “turn off these domains” order to your ISP, the ISP will have no choice but to block the offending websites. Problem solved! You know they’ve been working on this feverishly since the WikiLeaks outrage, right?

Here’s a Forbes blog post that explains just how the law will be used:

The PROTECT IP Act would allow copyright owners – movie studios and other content providers – simply to accuse a website of infringement, which could lead to that site being shut down by court order and entire links to the site being wiped clean from the Internet. Any website with a hyperlink, such as Twitter, Facebook or a blog, would be subject to liability. More, non-infringing sites could be inadvertently shut down under the proposal. Indeed, the law is so far-reaching that it would force Internet providers like Comcast to block all access to the allegedly illegal site.

The potential for abuse by the notoriously litigious content industry is clear. Last year, when the government sought to shut down one child pornography site, it ended up affecting some 70,000 legitimate sites for several days, even notifying visitors that the sites – many of which were business sites – were purveyors of child pornography.

For instance, the bill is so broadly written that, in theory, it would allow any copyright owner to shut down a legitimate retail website, such as Amazon or Best Buy, by alleging that one product being sold on the site could “enable or facilitate” an infringement.

But in practice, it won’t be giant business websites like Amazon that get the plug pulled. It will be the little guys, the alternative press, the OccupyWhatever sites, anything that gets in the way of the Internet’s actual role in America: retail advertising and shoe shopping and lonely online pursuits shown to lower people’s actual engagement with the world, like sport teams or pornography or gadget blogs or orc-battle games or anything shit out by the Murdoch empire of diversions.

Oh well. It was really an aberration that the Internet functioned as openly as it has these past two decades. But that era is already over, as proven by the U.K. national police shutting down mobile messaging during the summer riots or, just two months ago, San Francisco’s BART stations easily turning off all the cell phone signals within the stations to prevent protesters from organizing an action there against police brutality. [Cryptogon/Forbes/Reuters]

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About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne

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222 comments

    1. Not_So_Much

      The only case in which the term "pull the plug" is still literal. Just think, the kids these days don't even recognize the sound of a modem any more.

          1. RavenRant

            What is the origin of 'T'? I have been dying to know. Not enough to track back through months of posts, but still…

          2. MissTaken

            It was an incredibly insightful tweet from that master of the English language, Sarah Palin, herself.

  1. Callyson

    This is, in effect, what China, Iran, North Korea, etc. do with their national firewalls. The difference with the U.S. version is that they would force individual ISPs to carry out the bans, rather than implementing them in a centralized way.
    Ah, a combination of heavy – handed government censorship and private – sector enforcement. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Occupy V572

      Our government doesn't do anything unless some contractor can make money off it. And when it comes to war, we can't even stop doing it if some contractor is making money off it (them).

    1. HogeyeGrex

      It's always a good time to stock up on ammo and remote-control pink dildos.

      Like the Little Black Dress, some things are timeless.

  2. Moonbatting Average

    Ironically (?), when I was in China, any website with the word "politics" in its URL or title was blocked, but porn was as easy to find as in the States.

    1. Ken Layne

      Porn is a *wonderful* distraction. The kleptocrats & autocrats like it that way. And who loves porn the most? Teenage boys, exactly the demographic most likely to go out and destroy shit, if anybody could get them away from the porn (and WoW).

      1. Negropolis

        Porn is the opiate of the masses, is what you're saying. Porn is a government conspiracy! **gasp** Rosewell, and Castro, and Moon Landing, Oh My!

          1. RavenRant

            My mom once tried to buy a 'computer' cup that had been advertised as on sale. The store manager said they didn't have any in stock.

            Just as I was tearing him a new asshole for bait and switch, it turns out she had seen an ad for a 'commuter cup'.

            Quietly and apologetically, I bought the cup. It was a useless, leaky piece of crap.

            The End.

        1. flamingpdog

          Who? I have this vague recollection that someone named Sara Benincasa used to post on Wonkette, but it's been sooooooo long.

    2. GeorgiaBurning

      Look for the run on those .xxx domains with leetspeak-ish names ("h8the60P"). That will hold for a little while.

    3. RavenRant

      So the key is to produce porn that is secretly a devastating critique of the repressive power structure and/or includes coded messages for where/when the next insurrectionist meeting will be held.

  3. SorosBot

    So it looks like "House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) … along with committee members Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.)" are bought and sold property of the RIAA and MPAA.

      1. SorosBot

        And a big thank you to Ron Wyden:

        "It is similar to the PROTECT IP Act, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last May, but stalled after Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Oregon) placed a hold on the bill. Wyden argued that the bill infringed on free speech and would discourage innovation."

        1. Lascauxcaveman

          just about everything I hear about the guy almost makes we wish I'd stayed in OR, just so I could for the guy again, every six years.

    1. Negropolis

      Conyers is so damned old and feeble, I doubt he even knows he's on the committee to be completely honest. After his wife was sent to the pokey, he got way more distant and zoned out.

    1. NorthStarSpanx

      We all know this isn't about freedom or information, it's from a butt-hurt POTUS candidate who didn't appreciate becoming a frothy substance in any Google searches.

  4. Callyson

    But there is *some* sanity still in Washington:
    Senator Ron Wyden, a moderate Democrat from Oregon, has courageously put a hold on the Senate bill because of his concerns about the bill’s infringement of free speech and stifling of innovation.
    Though he might guarantee the death of this bill if he were to add an amendment to the bill that had a tax increase…

  5. Golfing_OJ

    We'll simply have to take over some corporate-approved blogsite and communicate in code.

    I'll start: If I post, on RachelRay.com, the following:
    1 cup butter
    1/4 tablespoon sage

    It really means:

    Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
    the Gunpowder Treason and Plot!

    What a fucking shithole, this country.

    1. OzoneTom

      Great, your plainly-stated plan marks Wonkette as a site for disseminating the means to conduct an illegal circumvention of emericun laws.

  6. owhatever

    Warning to our government: Don't piss off the eleven-year-old geeks by messing with their computers. They will hack you into little pieces and spread your gooey remains on Herman Cain pizzas.

    1. Not_So_Much

      Interesting point — on the same day that Sen. Gillibrand rips the Pentagon for having pretty much no fucking clue how computers work or what security is. The Nerd Armies won't take kindly to this…

  7. ManchuCandidate

    I dunno. Hollywood recycles the same old shit. Overcharges for the same said recycled shit. And then expects me to pay to see that?

    The reason why MGM nearly went tits up was because they were banking on milking their library of movies through DVDs forever while making the odd James Bond movie here and there (BTW, Quantum of Shit.. sucked) but couldn't because the value of their collection disappeared in part because DVD sales fell off the map and wasn't entirely piracy.

    MGM is the first in the long inevitable line of studio flameouts which is going to happen as film franchises get long in the tooth.

    1. Lascauxcaveman

      Yeah, now that you mention it, that was the first Bond film that actually left me felling depressed.

      How in the hell did they manage that?

    2. jaytingle

      You mean to say that MGM was on the ropes because someone illegally downloaded Saturday The Fourteenth Strikes Back? Not to be controversial, but I enjoyed Quantum of Shit.

    3. WordSaladNation

      I heard an interview with Idris Elba (from The Wire and the BBC series Luther) in which he talked about how much he would love to play James Bond in a future film. Can you imagine the collective explosion of wingnuts' heads around the world if James Bond was…a black man???

    4. io9k9s

      Is this post like one of those chinese poems that when read outloud and backwards reveals its true nature….

  8. SexySmurf

    If you think that's bad, an early draft of the bill required all offending web sites to be shot in the face with tear gas canisters.

    1. MaxNeanderthal

      To all you OWS troops, watch out for C cell batteries- I've heard that by an amazing co-incidence, they're exactly the calibre of your average gas/rubber bullet gun. Just sayin'…..

  9. ifthethunderdontgetya

    The PROTECT IP Act

    Hey, that rhymes with the USA PATRIOT Act! So no doubt it's the work of a pack of shameless corporate whores.

    House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the bill along with committee members Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

    Fuck all of you worthless scumbags.
    ~

  10. hagajim

    What a crock of shit this entire thing is…funny thing about this is that the country is swirling around the toilet right now and these dickholes are more worried about shutting down shit on the internet than doing their fucking jobs…cocksuckers, all of 'em, except maybe Wyden and I caveat that with "maybe".

    1. Jukesgrrl

      Banning things is way easier than providing solutions to problems. Just ask the people who hate abortion so much.

      "Please help me, I don't have the wherewithal to care for another child."
      "Fine. We'll force you to have it. There … all better? Bye."

  11. paris biltong

    Much of this so-called valuable content sucks.

    Also, products that enable or facilitate infringements include a fairly wide range of electronic devices so that all hardware distributors are in some way breaking the law.

  12. PuckStopsHere

    Does this mean we can't say cocksucker on the internet anymore? Cause really, if you can't do that, what's the point?

  13. SayItWithWookies

    For instance, the bill is so broadly written that, in theory, it would allow any copyright owner to shut down a legitimate retail website, such as Amazon or Best Buy, by alleging that one product being sold on the site could “enable or facilitate” an infringement.

    What a sickening and heavy-handed abuse of power. On the other hand, I am sorta looking forward to Bill Watterson shutting down the entire redneck truck sticker sector of the US economy.

    1. Ken Layne

      I'm pretty sure those stickers with "Calvin pissing on the cross" or whatever he's doing are made by some meth-head in his garage, no Internet required.

  14. elviouslyqueer

    Suds McKenzie is, even as we speak, furiously trying to get a refund for his purchase of beckybeckybeckystan.com

    1. not that Dewey

      And when they ask me who is the president of the domain registry company that hosts beckybeckybeckystan.com I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?

  15. mrblifil

    Well, they won the war against Napster, they will probably win this war too. Then we can have a multi-tiered internet where for a really fancy premium, they'll let you see stuff if you promise to set an egg timer while you "interface" with the "content." If you are still masturbating when the bell rings, you are summarily Gitmo'd.

  16. WriteyWriterton

    House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the bill along with committee members Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

    Your elected representatives – courageously preventing the sinking of the Titanic, one deck-chair at a time.

  17. SorosBot

    It's surprising that the music and movie industries still have the resources to to lobby for draconian anti-piracy measures; I thought the music industry was pretty much destroyed by cassettes and taping off the radio back in the 70s, and the movie industry by VCRs and recording rented videos in the 80s.

      1. SorosBot

        They wouldn't be, the bill would force them to enforce IP law and mean a lot more work for them. According to the articles, it's the MPAA that's really pushing for this, out of their fear of bittorent.

    1. paris biltong

      They probably use the chance of rubbing shoulders with movie stars as bait. Congresspeople would do anything to get away from their dreary surroundings.

  18. mrblifil

    George Tenet, the CIA director during 9/11 and the Invasion of Iraq, at his retirement ceremony joked that he required his teenage son to help him figure out his email. He's really not that old a guy. We often forget that entire swaths of the population missed out on the PC revolution and they really have no idea how it works or what it's for. And many many of those types of people are in important positions, determining things like internet intellectual property matters. We are doomed.

    1. Jukesgrrl

      We have a Supreme Court that can't tell the difference between a cell phone and an intercom and a Senate that thinks the internet is a series of tubez. How could that possibly be a problem?

  19. Indiepalin

    It's no surprise that a champion of limited government like Lamar Smith is behind this. I think there should be a question about this legislation during the next GOP debate / goatfuck in Nov. Front-runners like Cain, Perry and Romney are probably already having their teams of policy wonks analyze this brilliant piece of legislation.

    1. mrblifil

      ROFL. That was a good laugh. You owe me a new computer screen, from it now being drenched with an admixture of coffee and nasal boogers. Yep, we just need ONE INTREPID REPORTER OUT THERE to deliver some bracing JOURNALISM. Fingers crossed!

      1. Chichikovovich

        With a tough, cynical Washington bureau editor who only occasionally slips and reveals his heart of gold. And a senior partner who smiles quietly when the intrepid youngster reminds the oldster of how he acted in his own rash youth. But he'll have setbacks, and one source will probably set him up. Can he get the BIG STORY?

        1. user-of-owls

          Forget it guys. Even Perry White read the handwriting on the wall and got out of journalism. These days he's writing for Politico.

          1. SorosBot

            And Jonah Jameson sold the Daily Bugle to not-Rupert-Murdoch to successfully run for Mayor of New York, while Peter Parker joined Ben Urich and Robbie Robertson's new online paper Frontline.

          2. user-of-owls

            Jimmy Olsen's working at the Huffington Post, but the word is you don't want to know how he got that job.

        2. RavenRant

          Don't forget the wisecracking, tough talking ex-wife who still secretly loves both him AND the news biz. And wears cool hats.

  20. poncho_pilot

    intellectual property. what a bunch of of horse shit. the entertainment industry doesn't produce anything new. there are no new ideas. if anything, they took old ideas and turned them into money. they didn't invent the light bulb joke. they just created thousands of variations that are used against us so they can make money on dividing us in to niche markets. and we're supposed to feel sorry for them while they cling to their gold like the pirates they are. fuck these people. anyone who thinks you can own an idea is an asshole who wants control over someone.

  21. Antispandex

    Freedom isn't free…literally. It appears you must pay for your freedom with actual money! Who knew?

  22. Generation[redacted]

    I for one welcome our new ISP overloads, and would like to remind them that I can be useful in identifying subversive comments on blogs so the authors can be sent off to work in the underground sugar mines.

  23. Blueb4sunrise

    Remember, if you get questioned:

    "…, I am unaware of any such activity or operation – nor would
    I be disposed to discuss such an operation if it did in
    fact exist,…."

      1. Negropolis

        Yes, and if he gets some funding from The Oracle (of Omaha), we can rebuild this thing from the ashes.

  24. Come here a minute

    As long as they don't shut down standupamericanow.org, how can any Godfearing American complain?

    1. Negropolis

      You know, I truly worry about Congress. I couldn't give a fuck about the current system or members, but if the numbers keep getting worse or staying consistently bad, I can see a president (Democrat or Republican) formally calling for the dissolution of the body, or at least officially reducing it to an advisory position. I really do think Americans are naive if they think that that can't happen to our democracy.

  25. neiltheblaze

    Can't wait until the Liberals are back in power and we can shut down RedState and Politico for fun every three days.

    Wonder if Lamar thought about that at all.

    1. Generation[redacted]

      Fuck that, when we get back in power we shut down the web sites of everyone who voted for this bill.

      Then we require redstate to redirect to gotse, just for fun.

    2. Guppy

      Here's the kicker: the Liberals are in power.

      Seriously, what else were you expecting from California Democrats if not kowtowing to Big Media? That's like expecting Nebraska Republicans to rail against corn subsidies.

  26. Wonderthing

    Oh, everyone just calm down. I mean it isn't like those autocratic fucks are going to stop us from po

  27. RadioOcupados

    Ken, all you guys, it was fun, and enlightening, while it lasted. Last one out, don't forget to tell Kortney.

  28. elviouslyqueer

    Yoo hoo, Mr. or Ms. Government Lookieloo! If you're searching for exceedingly raunchy copyright-breaking tranny hooker scat videos, look no further. And you can thank me later.

    Just doing my civic duty.

    EQ

    1. littlebigdaddy

      What a disappointment…looking for hawt trannies and getting Breitbart instead. Yer messing with my internetz!

    1. Guppy

      Needz moar video.

      (Yeah, I know it's not the original, but having it covered by a Mexican band is irony too delicious to pass up.)

  29. poorgradstudent

    Freedom in 21st century America is the freedom to bully and step on those poorer than you.

  30. BaldarTFlagass

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand there's Ken, popping up at the end of a dreary barren three-post day at Wonkette to send me into a tailspin of depression, misery and gloom for the evening. I still have 13 vicodins left from my root canal last week, I wonder if that's enough to finish me off. Maybe if I throw them in on top of a quart of Bacardi!

    1. RavenRant

      I have a feeling that if they tried to take American men's pornsites away, we would really see the pitchfork and torches come out. Also guillotines.

  31. BaldarTFlagass

    So, like, if I don't like the weather and complain to the right person, they'll take down weather.com or weatherunderground? Because this drought is still working us over down here.

    1. Chichikovovich

      Just complain to Rick Perry. I hear he has got major drought-ending connections with the Big Man Upstairs.

  32. Chichikovovich

    This is crafted broadly because they actually have a lot of targets. Another is countries with the same period of copyright validity that the US used to have, before Disney etc. started paying Congressgrifters to keep making the copyright period last longer and longer, so it's always at least as long as the age of Snow White. So now there is all sorts of stuff that can be posted in Canada but not in the US, because in Canada it is in public domain. There has already been a case of an Austrian music company publishing classical scores that sued a Canadian database that was publishing material that was public domain in Canada but still protected in Austria. Canadian courts told 'em to piss off, of course, so I assume that the American content hoarders also want to be able to stomp people who download from foreign public domain websites.

    1. Lucidamente1

      The publisher was Universal Editions, who actually had a point (they've published an assload of classics of twentieth-century music, and didn't what to see what little margins they earned go up in smoke). Anyway, imslp.org cleaned up its act, relaunched, and has been very careful about making public domain music available for free.

      1. Chichikovovich

        My understanding had been – though you may be able to correct me – that originally the Austrian company had tried to get imslp.org to stop offering anything protected in Austria. That didn't fly, but they did find things that were still protected by Canadian copyright law too, and that is what forced the temporary shutdown.

        1. Lucidamente1

          I'm fuzzy on the details, but I think Universal's first cease and desist letter concerned composers in its list; after an initial brush-off, they sent a more extensive one, claiming protection for everything covered under Austrian law. For once, though, there was actually a happy ending, as imslp.org has been going strong since its return in 2008. They're now super careful about blocking downloads of scores still in copyright (though somehow I was able to get Berg's Lyric Suite, don't ask, not important, nothing to see here . . .).

  33. MissTaken

    Bye-bye Wonketteers! It was nice knowing you while we could still banter about the over-sexed, the under-sexed, the drunk, the closeted, and the clinically insane who rule our government.

    Keep on truckin.

  34. user-of-owls

    On the upside, if this is targeting sites that solely exist to ripoff actual producers, we can finally say goodbye to Drudge.

  35. slowhansolo

    I'm sure, just absolutely certain, this isn't as bad as it sounds. Because I live in America, where that kind of shit does not fly. Plus, if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that politics is just politics. It has no effect whatsoever on anyone's day to day life.

    1. SorosBot

      Well I suppose the internet companies will have to hire more tech nerds to implement this idiocy.

  36. fuflans

    well i'm hearing that the cdc and obama want to test anthrax vaccine on kids, so this seems about right.

    on the plus side, without free internet, the wingtards won't be able to get their panties in a wad as easily.

  37. ttommyunger

    I for one will certainly sleep more soundly tonight knowing that my Government Fathers are working diligently to protect me from any and all unfiltered, undirected or raw information. I realize I'm just not intellectually or morally equipped to discern truth from harmful propaganda. Thank you, Big Brother.

  38. TitsAkimbo

    I just bought out the local Post Office's entire supply of Forever© Stamps. Who needs this "internet", anyway?

  39. tessiee

    "Communist Revolution/Buffy slash-fiction forum"__

    So, no more "Leon Trotsky has a threesome with Willow and Xander" stories, would be my take-away.

  40. Negropolis

    Bless their hearts. They actually believe they can control the this system of pulleys and tubes. The genie's outta the fuckin' bottle, y'all. Get used to it.

    But, yeah; this whole blog can be shipped to Afghanistan. No one has lost any. No one has lost any, indeed.

  41. Negropolis

    Begun, the Internet Wars have.

    Seriously, if they tought Anonymous was bad, they ain't seen nothin' yet.

  42. bebecca2298

    Why is it the government's responsibility to police the IP rights of private companies? I smell a rat.

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