There’s suddenly a whole lot of “bipartisan support” for a supposed anti-piracy law that will actually let the U.S. Government force American Internet providers to shut down all access to any website immediately. Why might that be a popular idea, in Congress, right about now? And why are these anti-government Republicans like Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas behind such a heavy handed Big Brother off-switch on the entire Internet? And why is Joe Biden apparently strongly against such legislation, even though the Obama Administration supports it fully? Oh, right, because Biden is talking about how other countries shouldn’t do what the United States is about to do.
The conveniently rare bipartisan supporters of the SOPA/Protect IP censorship bills claim it’s to protect Republican interests such as “Hollywood movie studios” and “Hollywood media companies,” but in fact the “Protect IP” and “SOPA” bills actually let the government order any website accused of illegal distribution of intellectual property to be shut down by all American Internet service providers. Hey, is there a Kuwaiti guy putting a spam link to his Russian movie download site in the comments of, say, OccupyWallSt.org? Well just shut down OccupyWallSt.org, it’s that easy.
We’ve written about this before, and it just keeps getting worse. The interesting thing is that Google and Facebook and other such Internet giants are against the law, they say because there’s so much insane potential for abuse that a big Internet company would suddenly be forced to have a whole division to shut down sites as fast as whatever government agency demands it.
[Lamar] Smith’s Stop Online Piracy Act is aimed at foreign sites dedicated to pirated material, but Web giants such as Google and Facebook and telecommunications firms say his proposal goes too far, making them responsible for shutting down bad actors.
And how, exactly, does it go “too far,” you might be wondering? By creating a government “Internet blacklist” no different than China’s infamous “Great Firewall” that blocks anything critical of the Chinese government, along with whatever else the censors don’t want you looking at. This is how, for example, the #OWS protests are all but invisible on the Chinese Internet. But in China, it’s top down — the government does the actual administering of the Internet blacklist and the nation’s domain name servers. The typically American twist is that the government will demand that “free enterprise” do the dirty work, just as it did during the Bush Jr. wiretapping scandals we’ve all apparently completely forgotten.
Here’s a calm assessment from yesterday’s New York Times op-ed page:
The solutions offered by the legislation, however, threaten to inflict collateral damage on democratic discourse and dissent both at home and around the world.
The bills would empower the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising networks, all without a court hearing or a trial. The House version goes further, allowing private companies to sue service providers for even briefly and unknowingly hosting content that infringes on copyright — a sharp change from current law, which protects the service providers from civil liability if they remove the problematic content immediately upon notification. The intention is not the same as China’s Great Firewall, a nationwide system of Web censorship, but the practical effect could be similar.
When the NYT is suggesting a bipartisan law being rushed through Congress to an eager president for signing is actually a Chinese-style “Great Firewall” to suppress people, well …. we guess you should “write your representative and senator” on the way to the pitchfork and gasoline store.