Stop Online Censorship
By Color of Change
While the two related bills at issue,the PROTECT IP Act (or PIPA) in the Senate, and Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA) in the Housewould have a devasttating effect on our ability to communicate and express ourselves on the web, you aren’t alone if this is the first you’re hearing about them. Though this legislation has been in play since May 2011, as of this past weekend precisely one segment on the subject had been aired on any of the network or cable news outlets in prime time.4 This media blackout isn’t happening by accident of the six enormous conglomerates that control 90 percent of all American media,5 every last one is lobbying in support of these bills. 7
Congress is on the verge of handing the entertainment lobby sweeping, unprecedented control over how we use the Internet, which could have devastating consequences for our ability to communicate freely and without fear of reprisal.
Pending federal legislation would force nearly every domestic website to engage in a tremendous degree of self-censorship to ensure it won’t be subject to serious legal and financial liability. Any website featuring user-generated content think YouTube, Twitter, and FFacebook, not to mention the user comment sections of blogs, news sites, and commercial/retail sites like Amazon—would be forced to scrutinize every last post to ensure that none contain links to vaguely-defined, so-called foreign “rogue” sites that may fall afoul of US copyright law.
The unjustifiable repercussions of self-censorship, for both content producers and content consumers, strikes at the root of ColorOfChange’s purpose to amplify those voices histoorically marginalized by the powers that be. Black Americans’ effective and powerful history of organizing and our victories in gaining freedoms, rights and respect has always been dependent on our ability to use the latest technology to share information and communicate with each other. Today, maintaining an open Internet is critical to protecting and building on the progress we’ve made our ability to compete on a level pllaying field and have our voices heard on the Internet is unmatched in any other media platform.
The entertainment lobby’s overbroad Internet policing scheme elevates corporate interests over freedom of expression, and is an immediate threat to Black folks’ full participation in civic, social, and cultural life. Please join us in urging Congress to block any bill that suppresses our voices online:
Under the threat of prohibitively expensive legal action, suspension of incoming advertising and donation revenue, and removal from all search engine results,1 websites run by independent bloggers and journalists, artists, activists, and entrepreneurs without deep pockets will likely have to close up shop if they’re caught hosting a stray or even maliciously-placed “rogue” linkink. The ubiquity of user-generated content on the Internet is such that corporate bloodhounds could effectively target almost anyone they want, because almost any website could be found to be technically in violation of this wildly over-broad legislation. For the same reason, the very existence of sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, which rely wholly on�and host millions of pages of—user-generated content, is under direct attack.
The notion of creating an all-powerful Internet content policing mechanism is menacing enough, but it is incredible that our elected officials would consider handing such authority over to corporations, which have no regard for our most basic and hard-fought rights. Ostensibly designed to stop online piracy by websites located outside the United States, the legislation under consideration actually goes about cutting off access to foreign pirate websites by putting the squeeze on innocent US-based intermediaries. Forcing everybody else do the entertainment lobby’s dirty work for them would rope US-based website administrators into law enforcement to an unprecedented degree2 and give corporate entities exceptional power to chill public debate and expression without regard for due process.
While the two related bills at issue the PROTECT IP Act (or PIPA) in the Senate, and Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA) in the House would have a devasttating effect on our ability to communicate and express ourselves on the web, you aren’t alone if this is the first you’re hearing about them. Though this legislation has been in play since May 2011, as of this past weekend precisely one segment on the subject had been aired on any of the network or cable news outlets in prime time. This media blackout isn’t happening by accident of the six enormous conglomerates that control 90 percent of all American media, every last one is lobbying in support of these bills.
After a powerful outcry from the likes of Internet behemoths Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit, and WordPress, the sponsors of both SOPA and PIPA agreed this week to remove their most contentious provisions,8 which would have blocked Americans from even being able to access challenged domain names much in the same way that the Chinese government’s “Great Firewall of China” notoriously blocks its citizens from accessing censored content. Yet other deeply-troubling provisions that would just as effectively suppress Internet-based expression remain, and it’s increasingly clear that no amount of tinkering will fix the inherently flawed premise behind these bills: that the Internet should be repurposed from a public good into a surveillance vehicle for corporate benefit.
SOPA is currently stalled in the House, but may be revived as early as February, and PIPA is scheduled to go to a Senate vote on January 24. Please join us in defending the free and open Internet urge your elected representatives to oppose PIIPA, SOPA, or any bill that harms online expression. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same. It takes just a moment:
Thanks and Peace,
— Rashad, Gabriel, Dani, Matt, Natasha, Kim and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
January 18th, 2012
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