The US Internet Security Bill – what does it MEAN?

By on Nov 18, 2011 in Articles

One of the myriad newsletters I subscribe to in an ongoing attempt to overwhelm my inbox into submission is WebProNews. I don’t often read these letters all the way to the end (or even at all) but this one caught my attention. I’m just going to put the whole thing here for you, and I invite comments:

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The backlash finally begins

The Stop Online Piracy Act, or any of its many variations, something WebProNews has discussed before, is finally meeting a great deal of resistance as various online movements, and the long-awaited push back from entities like Google, Facebook, and Mozilla have (finally?) decided to throw their own weight around.

Where do you stand concerning the Stop Online Piracy Act? Do you side with the web giants or the government? Does the power SOPA give to stop piracy go too far? Let us know what you think in the comments.

It looks like the American public is also getting wise about the consequences of such a bill to pass, as the SOPA acronym is currently the top Google Trend. One hopes this isn’t a case of too little, too late. The resistance that’s getting the most coverage has to do with the rebellious responses of a consortium of well-known — and powerful — web companies, all of which banded together to create the following letter as their opening means of disagreement.

The letter, found under the Protect Innovation TLD, is signed by the following entities:


The stance of this group is one of disapproval concerning SOPA, and the crux of their position is here, with our own emphasis added:

We support the bills’ stated goals — providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign “rogue” websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to combat foreign “rogue” websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.

Essentially, these companies would like to stop piracy as well, they just don’t want it to be under the guise of “The Great Firewall of America,” which is what some entities have started calling SOPA.

The push back doesn’t stop there, however. With Mozilla, besides co-signing the letter, they also created a page that clearly states their position in relation to SOPA in its current form. The page links to an Electronic Frontier Foundation page that, in part, generates letters of opposition to whatever state representatives are applicable. The page also features valuable information about the potential harm SOPA can cause.

An example:

As drafted, the legislation would grant the government and private parties unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to redirect or dump users’ attempts to reach certain websites’ URLs. In response, third parties will woo average users to alternative servers that offer access to the entire Internet (not just the newly censored U.S. version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the reliability and universality of the DNS evaporates.

I urge you to continue reading.

Google, which also signed the letter of opposition, has also posted about their intentions over at their public policy blog, which includes Google copyright policy counsel Katherine Oyama testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Oyama was scheduled to testify earlier today, and the post has a link to her written and oral testimony.

An example from the written portion explains Google’s position quite well:

We support SOPA’s stated goal of providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign rogue websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement and counterfeiting. Unfortunately, we cannot support the bill as written, as it would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that could require monitoring of web sites and social media. Moreover, we are concerned that the bill sets a precedent in favor of Internet censorship and could jeopardize our nation’s cybersecurity. In short, we believe the bill, as introduced, poses a serious threat to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation.

These more well-known companies are not the only voices of dissension concerning SOPA. Even Vice President Joe Biden spoke out against the spirit of the act, and although the White House clearly supports the reduction of online piracy, at least one component of the United States Government disagrees with how SOPA goes about its prevention …

There’s more available here.

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