Suffice to say, the Internet has equipped countless individuals, businesses, and nations with the capacity to change the world for the better. Without the Internet, I would never have had the inspiration to write this blog for the past two years. Without the Internet, a bunch of Harvard students would never have dropped out of school to launch a social networking site boasting millions of users around the world.
Now, the folks in Congress are closing in on passing legislation that could potentially threaten and restrict the flow of innovation that the Internet makes possible.
The two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act(SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act(PIPA), are both similar in that they aim to protect copyright. Specifically, people in the entertainment industry are supporting the passage of this legislation; they aren’t happy with the millions(billions?) that are lost every year due to illegal downloading of movies, tv shows, books, etc.
What’s wrong with protecting copyright?
Nothing at all. The problem with the two proposed bills is that it grants the government the power to censor any website that contains infringing links.
Yep, that’s right. The bills don’t actually target the copyrighted content directly but rather, focuses on the censorship of the links to entire domains.
What this means for you and me is that user-generated content websites like Tumblr, reddit, WordPress, Youtube, and Facebook could have their sites shut down just for having a user posting links to copyrighted material.
What can I do right now?
The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. In the meantime, spread the word to as many people as you can. Write a blog post, tweet about it, post it on Facebook, mass text/email your friends. Also, let Congress know how you feel by contacting them at this page.
If you are a website owner, you can easily raise awareness amongst your audience by putting the Hello Bar that you see at the top of this site. Cloudflare also offers a solution that blacks out words longer than 5 characters on your website.
The Internet could be a very dark place sooner than you think. Let’s protect it.