By Ian Monroe
Today, Wikipedia, Reddit, and a host of other sites across the internet have gone dark to protest the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the PROTECT IP Act) bills worming their way through the legislature here in the US.
Both bills enable not just government censorship of the internet, but censorship initiated by the private sector, e.g. the MPAA and the RIAA, as a response to what they see as threats to their intellectual property rights.
The bills are both rapidly losing steam. MSNBC.com reported yesterday that votes in both houses of Congress have been delayed as protests around the internet have picked up supporters. On January 14, the Obama administration released a statement which indicated opposition to the most controversial enforcement mechanisms in both bills — DNS blacklisting, the same internet censorship techniques used by Iran, China, and Syria.
“We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.” – the White House Blog, at Whitehouse.gov
But that doesn’t mean the bills are dead; far from it. Today’s digital protests are important, both as a way to raise awareness of the bills amongst people who might not know much about intellectual property law, and also to register the displeasure of all the internet entrepreneurs and information workers who would be affected by the sweeping legislation.
We at Acceler8or believe both these bills are bad policy with a high potential for abuse, and we stand with the sites which have chosen to go dark today. We’re a small site, and blacking out for the day doesn’t make much sense for us, nor would it make a ripple in the immense oceans of traffic that make up the internet. But we would like to encourage our US readers to take a moment to register their opposition to the bills with their elected representatives. One easy way is using this page from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to send email to your representatives in Congress. Another good way is through AmericanCensorship.org, where you can get tools to help you advertise your opposition on your own websites.