Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Signal Boost: Stop the Internet Blacklist Bills

If you went to,, wikipedia, or dozens of other sites on the net today, you may have noticed they have been blacked out in protest. This was done to bring the public's attention to two bills before congress: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).

Why the protest? Well, these bills were intended to curb online piracy and copyright infringement (good), but did so in a really technologically uninformed and dangerous way (bad).

In addition to these bills not actually helping curb online piracy, they grant an incredible amount of leeway to allow the government and companies to arbitrarily censor and monitor the communication of people using the internet, both in our country and abroad. A few fun nuggets about the PIPA bill, quoted from :

  • PIPA is overbroad. By including "information location tools," it makes nearly every actor on the Internet a potential violator.
  • PIPA is bad international precedent. By sanctioning government interference with DNS, it would be used as justification for other countries to hinder freedom of expression of online.
  • PIPA is ripe for abuse. By creating a "private right of action," rights holders could directly go after payment processors and ad networks.
  • PIPA speeds fragmentation of the Internet. By targeting DNS, it could lead to a fragmentation of the Internet, running contrary to the U.S. government's commitment to advancing a single, global Internet.

There is a lengthy list of reputable organizations protesting these bills, including legal scholars, human rights organizations, industry groups, and engineers. Also, Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab and fellow CS blogger, has a great post summarizing this issue, as does Trevor Trimm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I urge you to take action and urge your congress members to reject this bill. 


  1. Do the ACM and IEEE have an official position on SOPA/PIPA? I can understand their not wanting to political stand and I can also understand that there may be some short-term positives for the ACM/IEEE if SOPA/PIPA passed.

    That said, the growth of our profession is strongly linked to the financial well-being and growth of internet-based companies. So even disregarding any moral or ethical considerations, it seems to me that opposing SOPA/PIPA is in the self-interest of all of us who have a stake in the profession of computing.

  2. I'm not sure, Pramod. There are several links on ACM's page to news articles about SOPA/PIPA, but no official statement or post.

    Nothing at IEEE's site, but that doesn't surprise me. (Besides, much of their content is usually behind a paywall).

    I agree that these bills would stifle growth in our profession. I hope Congress can be made to realize this too.

  3. I was just trying to say that it's important for organizations like the ACM to actively work against SOPA/PIPA. You may have seen this ridiculous claim the chief of the MPAA made yesterday:

    Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.

    These guys are consummate liars and seem to be trying their best to paint those opposing SOPA/PIPA as serving "foreigers" and "criminals".

    It'll be harder for the likes of the MPAA to lie so blatantly if a respected non-partisan organization like the ACM comes out against SOPA/PIPA. And of course, this is completely in line with ACM's mission of "advancing computing as a science and profession."

    I'm hoping that somebody important (like you :-) or even other senior readers of this blog) can convince the ACM to officially come out against SOPA.

  4. Actually, looks like your wish has been granted :)

  5. Great! :-)

    It seems like they are only opposing that the technology behind SOPA. This is better than saying nothing, but I wish they'd come out and say that everything about this is a bad idea.

  6. Internet SOPA has more in the effect because that it is in the revolutionary change and if it is in then so many website are affect in the way.

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