Recent events related to the Arab Spring have made many living in democratic societies take for granted their right to free online expression. However, Americans might have a very rude awakening very soon if the U.S. government has its way. Congress is actually debating a law that would give them the power to censor Internet content.
This bill would establish a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be dedicated to copyright infringement. The DoJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against any site they deem to have “only limited purpose or use other than infringement,” and the DoJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site. It would also make unauthorized web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a possible penalty up to five years in prison. This bill combines two separate Senate bills — S.968 and S.978 — into one big House bill.
Proponents of the bill say “it protects the intellectual property market, including the resultant revenue and jobs, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws especially against foreign websites.” Those supporters include the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Netflix, AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
However, opponents say that the bill will not only censor expression, but it will also stifle job creation and innovation. The many opponents include Internet companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook, as well as human rights groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.
From a social justice perspective:
…This bill could also have a huge impact on the work of human rights advocates and whistleblowers who depend on online tools to protect their anonymity and speak out against injustice. Platforms created to provide anonymity software to human rights activists across the world, as well as next generation WikiLeaks-style whistleblower sites, could be major casualties of this bill—all in the name of increasing Hollywood’s bottom line…
So to put it simply, the Arab Spring would have happened differently – if it happened at all – if social media tools like YouTube and Twitter were not available for use by the protesters. We probably wouldn’t have known the truth about Guantanamo Bay without the help of WikiLeaks. Most people probably wouldn’t have even known about the causes around Troy Davis and Bank Transfer Day without the help of online petitioning.
Most importantly, the business operations for Global Wire Associates are threatened if such a bill is passed. This bill undermines all the work we do with many activists worldwide. Imagine the many people who will suddenly be silenced because they were speaking out against injustice.
If you live in the United State, please contact your congressman, asking them to oppose the bill. You can also make your opposition to the bill known publicly here on this online petition.