SOPA: The death of the internet as we know it
January 18, 2012
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When you think of the Internet what springs to your mind? Is it videos, memes, social networking, blogging, or information?
Unfortunately, all of these functions could be about to be destroyed or at the very least rendered unrecognizable thanks to the United States House of Representatives anti piracy bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA.
The bill was written by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). “The bipartisan bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act would establish major new powers for corporations intent on corralling copyrighted materials — powers that would lead to big legal bills for start-ups and Silicon Valley giants alike,” said Zach Carter of the Huffington Post.
Websites such as YouTube, blogs on popular sites like Tumbler and Reddit, Wikipedia and Google, and social media such as Facebook and Google+ are all at risk. This bill could destroy the freedom that these websites stand for, and these are only the big name sites. Millions of minor sites could be destroyed if this bill is passed. The bill would do this by cutting off funding for the site.
This may sound like my bias towards the bill, and granted I don’t like the idea of a piracy free internet; mostly because it would mean actually paying to watch old TV shows and movies instead of just looking them up on YouTube. But if you look closer, this is about more than just piracy. Essentially the bill allows any company that has copyrights over something to go to the bank funding the website and demand that the bank stop the funding. How many things on YouTube, Facebook, or Tumbler have you seen that do not in some way violate copyrights or that are completely original in every way? The answer is nothing, or at least so little that it might as well be nothing. Though the big names mentioned above may possibly have enough money to hire enough lawyers to fend off these assaults upon them, smaller sites such as Smosh or Cracked, whose entire existence is dependent upon copyright violations, will find themselves destroyed.
And videos and media sites aren’t the only things that this bill could put into jeopardy. If you don’t believe me, listen to what five web security experts had to say in an excerpt from a 17 page analysis of what the bill and its cousin, the PROTECT IP Act, would do to internet security: “The PROTECT IP Act would weaken this important effort to improve Internet security. It would enshrine and institutionalize the very network manipulation that [tech experts] must fight in order to prevent cyberattacks and other malevolent behavior on the global Internet, thereby exposing networks and users to increased security and privacy risks,” said Carter. So not only does the bill get to destroy one of the main points of the internet, but while doing it, the bill weakens the rest of the web to the point where it has the security and stability offered by a wet sand castle, at high tide.
I hear you asking the question, “But why isn’t the internet standing up for itself?” The answer is that it is, just not very well in most cases. Sites like AOL Inc., eBay Inc., Facebook, and Twitter, all oppose the bill with the largest opposition coming from Google. Google is unfortunately not the best representative to have the support of in Washington. Thanks to 500 million dollars in lawsuits filed by the government for giving people easy access to illegal substances.
In fact one of the only bright spots in this fight for the internet’s freedom and future is the case of domain registration site GoDaddy.com, which you probably remember from their racy commercials. GoDaddy.com was one of the significant corporate backers behind SOPA until it suffered a horrendously bad case of PR when it came out as a supporter of the bill. This was followed by a spectacular boycott spearheaded by the popular online community Reddit. GoDaddy.com eventually resigned its support from the bill. One of the other tactics that is being utilized some by some sites such as Wikipedia is a blackout. By blacking out their website Wikipedia can show the people of the internet what it would be like without access to their website, which is exactly what this bill would do.
The rather sad thing about the whole situation is that SOPA is a bipartisan effort. With all of the problems in our nation such as unemployment, healthcare, and the economy that the government could be agreeing on and doing something about, instead politicians are too busy taking money from corporations bent on destroying the freedom of the internet in exchange for minor profits. These senators and representatives are so out of touch with the American youth that they consider what we look at as our most valued treasure to be something that is good for nothing but raking in more money for them. Loud crash followed by a thud, sorry that was my soapbox collapsing and me falling over forward. I will try to avoid setting it up again and focus on the facts. Fact 1. This bill will restrict the freedom of those who use the internet. Fact 2. Many small websites will be destroyed and many of the larger sites won’t have the ability to operate freely. Fact 3. The bill faces large opposition by many if not all of the big name websites. Fact 4. Like another well known blood drinking parasite this bill hopes to gain money from people who are too ignorant to oppose it.