Congress still considering Internet censorship!

Posted by David Gomez

It’s a bad news day for Internet users in America. The totalitarian bill that would give the government power to shut down websites their secret controllers do not approve of is making its way through congress again.

According to The Raw Story free speech advocates have help from a group of academics in the latest fight against the bill.
    
The deceptively named Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) was introduced in Congress this fall by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). He wants to grant the government the power to block any Web domain that hosts copyrighted material without permission.
    
Critics of the bill say it is a favor for the movie and recording industries. They fear (rightfully) that it would be a step towards massive amounts of unchecked and unjustifiable censorship.

The powers that would be given to government would be very far-reaching. That is because the bill aims its crosshairs at domain names and not specific content. This means an entire website can be shut down!

This means that if one of the influential copyright barons discovers something they don’t like on the Internet they can get the U.S. government to shut down entire websites. They can do this even if people aren’t accessing the copyrighted material.

Whole websites will be taken down on a whim, even if the majority of the traffic isn’t attempting to access the “illegal” material.

The bill was delayed in September because of outraged activist groups; it has reared its ugly head again and it could be positioned to be passed quickly through the lame-duck session of congress.

The activist group DemandProgress is still running a petition to oppose the bill. They argue that the power in the bill could, and most likely will be used for political purposes.

It’s for our own good though, right?

A group from academia led by Temple University law professor David Post, have signed a petition opposing COICA.

"The Act, if enacted into law, would fundamentally alter U.S. policy towards Internet speech, and would set a dangerous precedent with potentially serious consequences for free expression and global Internet freedom," Post wrote in the petition letter (available in PDF here).
    
Post had another good quote that I felt was important to include: "Even more significant and more troubling, the Act represents a retreat from the United States’ historical position as a bulwark and beacon against censorship and other threats to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and the free exchange of information and ideas around the globe."
    
Congress meets to discuss this bill again on November 18.
    
It’s hard to believe that something like this will pass and be enacted into law. But then again this is one of the more evil government activities I’ve heard of recently and there doesn’t seem to be much outrage.
    
I’m on a college campus five times a week and there doesn’t seem to be much objection from the young people. Young people more than anyone use and depend on the internet for culture and entertainment.

Are there angry college students voicing their displeasure for this bill in protests at the student center? No.

Hopefully, activists and some pissed off university professors will be enough to thwart this second round of attempted mass censorship of the Internet. It would surely help if more people voiced their disapproval at this ludicrous attempt to control information.

The DemandProgress petition can be found here.