Web Censorship Bill

Many people complain about big government, but the sad fact is most of the time these complaints are ill-informed and misplaced. The public will latch on to some non-issue manufactured by people with political agendas, yet remain silent and largely ignorant of real cases of government overreaching. One case in point is a web censorship bill that has just sailed through a US Senate committee. Anyone who uses the Internet should be very concerned over this legislation.

This week we’ve had the controversy over airport screenings and pat-downs conducted by TSA or Transportation Safety Administration, a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security. The bill in question amounts to another kind of pat-down and eventually, take-down. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) received unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will still require full approval from the House and Senate before becoming law.

In a nutshell, this bill gives the Attorney General the power to “shut down websites if copyright infringement is deemed central to the website’s activities”. Under this bill, a website can be shut down even if no crime was committed. Critics maintain that this bill will allow censorship of the Internet without due process, and the big question  is who will determine which web sites should be shut down. The government? Yahoo? Google? ARIN?

According to Wired.com, “scholars, lawyers, technologists, human rights groups and public interest groups have denounced the bill. Forty-nine prominent law professors called it ‘dangerous.’ The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch warned the bill could have ‘grave repercussions for global human rights.’ Several dozen of the most prominent internet engineers in the country — many of whom were instrumental in the creation of the internet — said the bill will ‘create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation’.”

One of those “prominent internet engineers”, Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the world wide web, said “Neither governments nor corporations should be allowed to use disconnection from the internet as a way of arbitrarily furthering their own aims.”

This is an issue I would think right-wingers, Republicans, and Tea-baggers would be all over. They’re always talking about how people should fend for themselves, pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, etc., and now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people too, I think the same should apply to those media companies who support this bill. I do not condone online piracy, but at the same time, I don’t understand why music and film companies should get an assist like this in the job of protecting their property. Let them look out for themselves, like the rest of us. It would be unreasonable for me to expect the police to come and stand guard over my personal property twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I think it is just as unreasonable to expect any government entity to do the same with my intellectual property.

Legal experts are concerned, and rightly so, that allowing government to shut down internet sites based upon vague and arbitrary evidence, especially if no law-breaking has been proved, is an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Become an engaged Buddhist, or an engaged whatever you may be, and write to your representatives in Congress and ask them to vote against this Draconian bill.


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