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Is SOPA Internet Censorship and a Threat to Free Speech?

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Nothing more important than the Arab Spring has happened in the world . Students, young people, those who hunger for justice, all brought together by the 20th and 21st centuries’ miracle, the World Wide Web; our Internet. Oppressed people all over the globe were seized through that medium with an awareness of freedom. Until the protests in Egypt, freedom was an achievable concept. Now, freedom is an absolute. Every society can now view freedom as a basic goal. The internet is a great tool of the people, and few can fail to see that it must remain open,and free of undue influence.

At first glance, attempts to censor the internet, steps such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), seem harmless. These restrictions apply to illegal marketing, much of which comes from foreign nations. Those who sell medications which in the United States would require prescription, or those who sell pirated or copied software, movies, music, ebooks and games at a greatly reduced price, are the targets. The bill would also make the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, including music, movies, ebooks, games and TV programs, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. If passed, SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against foreign and domestic websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement.

If SOPA becomes law, some major websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Wikipedia would be required to examine each and every link posted by site users. In the event a pirating site were to install at some point an illegal link, the major website would be held responsible and face a possibility of being shut down, plus criminal penalties. Examination by these websites of every posted link could be a costly and difficult procedure.

It seems the blame and the blackout option should be not be aimed at the final point, on the local website, but rather at the source. An oversight agency might then develop a list of outlawed links, outlawed sites, and through some server, or system of servers, black them out. A system such as Norton Antivirus, or other virus protection engine, might have experience to develop such a capacity.

If SOPA (or the similar PROTECT IP Act [PIPA]) were to go into effect, making individual websites liable for each and every posted link, there could be a potential for corruption. What may seem right and sensible today can become a throbbing sore a just few years down the road. Individuals in power could punish websites which displease them.

The full text of the SOPA Act is available online

Does it seem there is undue concern; do these bills amount to censorship? There are views from both sides of the issue. Among tech companies who foresee and oppose this considerable interference is trade association NetCoalition. Executive director Markham Erickson told FOXNews he considers this potential censorship a result of special interest legislation. He says these bills would, “Fundamentally change the way the internet works.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WS) was most outspoken:

The internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history. It should stay that way. While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House.

Liberals, conservatives, and Libertarians are joining forces to address this “assault on free speech.” Red Mass Group, a conservative website, Blue Mass, a liberal website, and the Heritage Foundation, as well as Beregrond, a Libertarian stronghold, all oppose what they view as a potentially damaging move: “By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet,” a spokesman said, calling it a form of censorship.”

In an alternative view, The New York Times suggests we need to examine the motivation of “big internet guys” that oppose SOPA.

Google made huge profits by directing consumers to illegal foreign Web sites, so its opposition is self-serving. In fact, Google recently paid half a billion dollars to settle a criminal investigation because of its promotion of foreign pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to American patients, possibly endangering their health

The White House is expected to oppose the bill as it is written, should it pass Congress.

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • Casandra

    I would say the arise SOPA issue would be a big challenge to virus protection engine which are best in market like “COMODO”, Norton ,Avast.

  • Paul

    The Gov. will eventually… hopefully… understand that all of this is futile. You cannot fight against technology and technology is allowing us to escape physical and scarce limitations

  • Cannonshop

    It’s security theatre-it doesn’t enhance the security of the user, it enhances the power and influence of those seeking power and influence-by deceit, and bad law…

    and it will pass. It will pass because we elect pretty people with nice speaking voices to make laws, instead of electing intelligent people who value freedom and liberty.

  • Luke

    Im from Canada and if this law goes froth i will be hit harder than the american people. I an’t tell you why, This is one way the government will keep you locked in your seats. No longer can you be on Facebook and tell a girl “we should have sex tonight” it will go through sopa and if they don’t like it which im sure they wont it wont go through. This speech im telling you right now may not exist in 2 weeks if it goes through. That’t not freedom…You may not like me for saying this but read revelations in the bible its all there.
    Thanks Luke

  • Igor

    It’s a terrible bill and bad in it’s own right. But really it is just the first step in stealing the assets of the internet to grab their value AND put the internet into the service of large corporations to further oppress the American people.

    It’s a big robbery.

    This is what our Magnificent corporations have sunk to: looting disorganized citizens out of their assets, their savings and their investments.

    The government may be too big and clumsy but it is the only defense against those oversize corporate predators.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    The government may be too big and clumsy but it is the only defense against those oversize corporate predators.

    Unless you’re a Republican in which case you’re more likely to think that corporate predators are your only defense against the government….

  • John Lake

    #6
    Don’t let the blackout get to you, Glenn. Your comment at #6 is completely, utterly irrational!!

  • Igor

    You have to be a high officer of the corp to be protected by it. As countless layed off employees of formerly ‘paternalistic’ corps will testify.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    John –

    ‘irrational’? Yesterday, over a million signatures were delivered to the Wisconsin elections commission for the recall of their governor, Scott Walker. What was Scott Walker doing yesterday? Attending – and speaking – at a fundraiser held by the guy who used to run AIG.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I paid my dues and I’m merely getting back what I’m owed. But even if I haven’t, I’d have no compunction of robbing the thief. If they want to jail me, let them jail me, but I no longer recognize their authority to do so — so for as long as I can, I’ll remain as free as a lark.

    You’re not going to impinge on my conscience here, hard as you may. But I suppose you’re right, I ought to go underground. Soon, perhaps.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sorry, wrong thread.

  • John Lake

    Getting some strange comments…

  • Igor

    The original internet (or ARPAnet as it is more properly called) is wide open, which is infuriating to the Big Guys in business and government who want EVERYTHING to be under their control!

    So, faced by this wild undisciplined bronco they decided to SURROUND it with properly submissive client programs, such as Internet Explorer, which they made attractive with bright shiny toys, but which routinely violated internet conventions and practices with PROPRIETARY EXTENSIONS which had peculiarities that they controlled thru patents and copyrights.

    That worked pretty good, IE is a honey pot that attracts users into a trap.

    BUT anyone can make their own browser (that’s the way things were designed!) with components easily available.

    So users, with the help of clients from heretics, can outflank IE and it’s siblings.

    The core technology of internet is open and public, not closed and private.

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