New act creates Internet blacklist
Published: Monday, January 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 19:01
Beginning in 1947, a dark decade of censorship shrouded the American entertainment industry, barring artists from their trades on the basis of suspected sympathy toward Communism. Those dreadful days of the blacklist have returned with two dangerous pieces of legislation moving through Congress.
Today's victim is the Internet.
Both the Protect IP Act, in the Senate, and a House version known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, "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," according to an op-ed in The New York Times.
The motion picture and music industries, teamed with a long list of supporters including the pharmaceutical industry and the NFL, are backing these bills that threaten free speech by giving unnecessary authority over websites to the Department of Justice in the name of protecting intellectual property.
SOPA would involve blocking Americans' access to flagged websites by editing the Domain Name System, something prominent Internet inventors and engineers have said could harm Domain Name System Security Extensions, "a new DNS protocol designed to prevent DNS spoofing attacks that hijack users' browsing and take them to untrusted sites even when they enter the domain of a trusted one," according to Forbes.
"Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors and security problems. This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship," a group of 83 Internet engineers warned in an open letter to Congress. SOPA even mirrors China's Great Firewall to some extent, making sites like Google, YouTube and Facebook liable for what their users post.
Opponents of this anti-piracy legislation, like Firefox and its add-on dubbed DeSopa, have already found a way to slip past the DNS censorship, demonstrating how SOPA would ultimately be ineffective against online piracy. Plus, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and the PRO-IP Act of 2000 are already in place to safeguard intellectual property.
Both sides of the blogosphere have firmly expressed their disdain, arguing these bills could deal a deadly blow to political speech if either passes. One writer for the conservative blog Red Mass Group said some political blogs could cease to exist. A writer for the left-leaning blog Firedoglake reveled in the news that the domain registration site, GoDaddy.com, withdrew its support for SOPA after a massive boycott fueled by Reddit.com.
A petition on WhiteHouse.gov asking President Barack Obama to veto SOPA and other similar bills has garnered some 45,000 signatures. The people have spoken. It is time the companies and politicians supporting this legislation take a few steps back and listen.