Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy American Censorship Day

So, today is the day that congress begins deliberation on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This is a bill that would impose ridiculous criminal penalties on all sorts of people, from a kid singing a song on YouTube to Tumblr and Facebook. Nominally, the bill seeks to deal with online piracy of copyrighted material, but it makes internet providers and companies accountable for things that their users do. This would effectively require them to police content (like everything you post on your blog, or your Facebook page).

A host of internet companies took out this full-page ad in the New York times opposing the measure:
View more readable version on Boing Boing, here.
The whole bill is a testament to just how wholly owned our government is. The bill was basically written by special interests in Hollywood and Pharma, along with the US Chamber of Commerce. Representatives of each of these interests will be speaking at the hearings. However, last I heard, only one voice opposing the bill (Google) is being allowed to testify. (N.B.: If you want to pass sweeping censorship legislation, the key is first to censor any anti-censorship voices.)

Importantly, but unsurprisingly at this point, no civil rights proponents are being permitted to testify. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a collected many of the arguments as to why this bill is insanely bad. Among them, the bill would:

  1. impose liabilities on internet companies in a way that will severely discourage innovation and impact job creation.
  2. damage the ability for free speech.
  3. effectively hamstring the internet worldwide, not just in the US.
  4. impose the type of censorship that we routinely condemn in repressive regimes around the world.
On point four, here's video of Joe Biden explaining why internet censorship laws exactly like this one are really bad, un-American even. 

(via Boing Boing.)

You can send e-mail to your Representative and Senators opposing the bill by going here.

You can join the protest by placing a black "STOP CENSORSHIP" bar on your website. Get yours here. (I could not figure out how to do it on Blogger, but I've added one on Darwin Eats Cake.)

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