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Shocked? I myself was very shocked when I heard news that says, ‘SOPA will destroy the internet’ or ‘the freedom of information is heading towards its end’. Recently, the Supreme Court warned Google and Facebook saying that it can ban these sites in India if they don’t come up with some mechanism to check and remove the ‘unacceptable’ content being circulated by the users. And more recently, you must have heard about SOPA, but if you don’t follow tech news very closely, it’s likely you’ve heard this term but you may not know exactly to what it refers. SOPA– Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA – Protect IP Act are the two bills that US congress is considering. And if they are passed, the internet will crumble down to become the puppet of the hands of a handful of authorities. This is not fair! Not at all!
The Internet is a bastion of freedom in the modern world, allowing individuals to spread their ideas to a growing global audience. Previous communication systems have been established, controlled, and monitored by authoritarian or inefficient governments. The Internet, however, has come to symbolize freedom. Not restricted to only few elites, ruling class people, social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Google+ are open to everyone. The Internet is truly the triumph of The People.
Some regimes like China’s have restricted Internet usage and continually try to keep their people in the dark, not allowing them to see the free market of ideas. The web has been used to spark protests and was an influential factor in the Arab Spring, where millions used it as a tool to overthrow their cruel dictators. For this reason, restrictive, non-Democratic, and non-Capitalistic governments, just like our very own, Indian government, fear the Internet: because It has become a check on governmental power.
Recently, however, the federal government has been playing with a dangerous idea: DNS blocking. This is the same method of censorship used by China, Syria, and Iran, to keep outside information from their people.
The Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) were designed specifically to protect the interests of the US Entertainment industry. This is the same industry, headed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that shut down an entire town’s municipal Wi-Fi network because of allegations that one person was caught downloading a movie illegally, and the same industry that sued companies over the introduction of the VHS player.
The technology industry is firmly against these Congressional measures. Companies like Google, Youtube, Yahoo!, Facebook, the Mozilla Corporation, eBay, Twitter, AOL, TechCrunch, Wikipedia, Reddit, Zynga, Tumblr, and LinkedIn have come out in firm opposition to this legislation. Not only the technology industry (those who built the Internet), but also the vast majority of Internet users (those who know how to use the Internet) stand united against PIPA and SOPA. Google’s recent petition against them collected over 4.5 Million signatures in less than a day!
The piracy of copyrighted material is definitely not to be promoted. But this legislation, however, would go much farther than protect that material. It would allow DNS names to be shutdown unjustifiably in order to censor the Internet. Possibly the most contentious part is that this could happen at the whim of bureaucrats without a court order. Many of the “dirty tricks” employed against Wiki leaks would be enshrined in law under SOPA.
And one must know, that these bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anti-constitutional! They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made! Seriously? What the hell is this? Shouldn’t it be called as a dictatorship under the name of Democracy?