Since SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced to Congress in October, the nation’s entertainment industry, Internet entrepreneurs, and government have been up in arms and taking sides.

SOPA was created to stop copyright infringement of American products by shutting down supposedly infringing foreign websites that target U.S. consumers.

SOPA would allow, according to’s Declan McCullagh, “The U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty…. to be blacklisted, a Web site must be ‘directed’ at the U.S. and also that the owner ‘has promoted’ acts that can infringe copyright.”

McCullagh also reported that in a letter to the New York Times, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote, “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.”

Controversy has developed among internet big-wigs.

These internet executives, in addition to several others, signed an open letter opposing SOPA. The open letter stated the concerns that the Act threatened to:

 * Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;

* Deny website owners the right to due process of law;

* Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and

* Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.

According to Forbes, Sergey Brin commented on his Google+ page:

In just two decades, the world wide web has transformed and democratized access to information all around the world. I am proud of the role Google has played alongside many others such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Twitter…. For our own websites and for the internet as a whole we have worked tirelessly to combat internet censorship around the world alongside governments and NGO promoting free speech. Thus, imagine my astonishment when the newest threat to free speech has come from none other but the United States…. While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement … I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.

Morgan Reynolds authors Chris Smith and Marci McGrath wrote in Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, “The Internet [is] much more than a hobby for computer nerds. It was becoming the way millions of people live their lives.”

If this Act passes, the fear among the tech world is that it would inevitably “break the internet.”

David Carr of the New York Times, reported, “Entertainment companies think that technology companies are aiding and abetting thieves on a broad scale, but the legislation is alarming in its reach, potentially creating a blacklist of sites and taking aim at others for unknowingly hosting a small fraction of copyrighted material.”

Twitter, Facebook, Google: all of these sites and many more would be under the scrutiny of the government. And there is no denying that they have been major players in how the world operates and, maybe most importantly, the access to information once impossible to access because of government censorship.

Smith and McGrath wrote, “But in Egypt–just as in Tunisia, Iran, Libya, Moldova, and other countries experiencing political unrest–Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet-based social networking sites have been there in the thick of things too. Although it’s hard to know how big a role the Internet has played in the unrest, one clue is how often the governments involved try to block Twitter and other messages, or just shut down Internet access completely.”

It seems that one of the biggest issues about SOPA, as Sergey Brin implied, for the technological world is, if it is passed, what makes the U.S. government different from those governments we look down on for oppressing their people by censoring information.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about the Internet and how Twitter, Google, and Facebook have changed the world and how we access information, check out:

Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams by Chris Smith and Marci McGrath (ISBN 9781599351797)

Google Founders: Larry Page and Sergey Brin by Kerrily Sapet (ISBN 9781599351773)

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg by Judy Hasday (ISBN 978159935-1766)

Published in: on January 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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