Saturday, November 26, 2011


Those who wish to rule must rue that the government ever created the internet. It has, since it branched beyond military use, become a big thorn in the side of the political class. In terms of shopping, it has enabled people to bypass sales taxes and to find bargains from a great distance as well as purchase used items at deep discounts on sites such as eBay. In terms of news it has allowed non-mainstream providers and their audience to find each other, and allowed greater dissemination of stories that the mainstream media would prefer to bury. In terms of law enforcement, incidents of an individual being mistreated are no longer considered isolated incidents local to one area but are instead indicative of a pattern with each new "isolated incident" feeding into the general outrage of the people being mistreated by the police. In terms of political activism, it has created the Ron Paul campaign as well as other issue focused campaigns that in the past would have died for lack of coverage.

Various attempts at "net neutrality" have been a topic of conversation, in which the cover of safeguarding the net is used to control the net. While there is some merit to some aspects of the discussion in favor of net neutrality measures, the discussion as a whole lacks much merit. It is obvious by the way the internet was constructed that it was a government project initially, as the methods of allocating bandwith are somewhat crude compared to how one might design the internet if one was starting from scratch.

But "net neutrality" keeps getting a justified defeat, so false claims of fairness have proven to be far insufficient. So in the name of stopping piracy a bill has been introduced to congress that will effectively shut down large swaths of the internet for those who access in the United States. It is the Stop Internet Privacy Act. A better, although more biased and more vulgar link can be found here although it would be a bad idea to open that link at work.

This bill has the potential to, in the name of stopping piracy, shut down many sites that contribute the value to the internet today. Any site that has user-provided content is at severe risk lest one of the users provides copy-righted content. If the content falls under fair use, the burden of proof is on the accused. Currently, under DCMA, if someone sees copyrighted material they must submit a letter to the site requesting the material be taken down. Under the SOPA bill, a site must instead actively monitor all content lest something be copyrighted, and failure to do so is a crime. YouTube, which receives a vast number of videos every day, could not handle the burden and would have to shut down. That would stop the embarrassing videos of police abusing people from surfacing and spreading.

Other sites that share content, such as Rational Review News Digest and Freedom's Phoenix which excerpt portions of an article and link to the original article at the original site may be considered to be at risk if the original provider does not want their article shared with a particular audience. Righthaven was shut down for their abuse of copyright law, but this new bill strengthens the position of similar copyright trolls.

The internet has been a force for freedom in this increasingly oppressive world. Given how many content provider websites are headquartered in the US, and disputes are supposed to be settled in the US no matter where the content provider website is located, this amounts to world-wide censorship. Currently this bill is in committee, but given what it could potentially accomplish this is bill should be stopped.

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