In the past, censorship occurred nationally or locally. Authoritarian governments or local rulers already controlled, or soon seized hold of, all means of communication beyond that of person-to-person exchange, and frequently quashed such personal communications with the threat of death or imprisonment. The advent of the Internet, however, promised to change the censorship game forever, by giving the censored and disenfranchised people of the world eyes and ears to see and hear with, and a means and voice to express themselves with, to communicate their concerns, desires, and creativity to others like them across the planet. And the Internet has fulfilled some of that promise: sometimes openly, sometimes by providing alternate underground networks on which to share information. It has transformed person-to-person communication into person-to-people communication. Various governments have tried to censor the Internet more or less successfully by limiting their peoples’ access to it; in most cases, individuals were able to use the “underground” Internet to circumvent censorship.
But now the Internet is facing an unprecedented, worldwide threat: the threat of censorship gone global. In the United States, cooperation between corporate lobbyists and politicians has resulted in proposed Internet-censorship legislation that is now moving ponderously forward like a steamroller through Congress.
Corporate interests — primarily in the motion-picture and music industries, but also including manufacturers of apparel and sportswear, as well as sports leagues — and their supporters in Congress are attacking the freedom of the Internet by seeking to grant the government wide powers of censorship in the name of preventing counterfeiting and theft of intellectual property.
But the laws “Big Content, Inc.” are seeking to have enacted are dangerously over-broad; they target the innocent as well as the guilty, and would violate the guarantees of due process granted by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, and the free-speech protections of the First Amendment. Large number of innocent websites would face either having to defend themselves against false charges of infringement, or shutting down completely. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube might be forced out of existence, or compelled to become enforcers of censorship for the government. In any case, the free exchange of information on the Internet would be compromised.
The Internet censorship measures proposed by these laws would be ineffective in combating intellectual property theft and piracy, and could even endanger the security of the DNS (Domain Name System), the “phone book” of the Internet that makes it possible for all of us to find one website out of hundreds of millions.
Censorship of the Internet threatens to bring the United States closer to acting like the authoritarian governments it claims to oppose. Pro-censorship legislators are already advocating the censorship methods of these repressive regimes as models for American censorship of the Internet.
To learn more about Internet censorship and what you can do to help stop it, please click on the links below, or on the picture above:
The basics of Internet censorship proposals:
The involvement of “Big Content, Inc.” in calling for Internet censorship:
Opposition to Internet censorship efforts:
How censorship will compromise the Internet at home and abroad:
A list of companies supporting Internet censorship (useful for organizing boycotts):
UPDATE (as of 24 December 2011):
The story so far: at this point, the vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) in the House of Representatives has been put off until January. The PROTECT-IP Act (“PIPA”) is also showing signs of re-surfacing next month in the Senate, with Majority Leader Senator Reid threatening to bring it up again. Both of these bills promote Internet censorship; if one or the other is enacted, free speech on the Net will have taken a giant step backward. We can’t allow these measures to pass unchallenged.
Thanks very much to everyone who phoned their legislators and the White House, sent e-mails, and signed petitions opposing SOPA and PIPA. Until these pernicious bills are stopped entirely, please DON’T stop doing what you’ve been doing. If you haven’t taken action yet, please do so. These proposed pieces of legislation endanger the freedom of the Internet — not just in America, but around the world — and we do have the power to stop them, but only if we act together … and NOW.
More and more people and businesses are raising their voices on this issue and coming out against pro-censorship legislation, because they’re realizing that Internet censorship will be bad for the economy and very bad for our country and the world. Please join them.
Please visit the link below to learn about some suggestions for continued action: