Government should keep its hands off Internet
President Barack Obama once said, “the Internet is perhaps one of the most open networks in history and we have to keep it that way.” Despite it being the president who said those words, the truth is that the way we surf the Internet could all change one day. Many Americans now find themselves clinging onto those words because there is a possibility that some Internet sites could be censored or blocked.
Sens. Patrick Leahy and Orin Hatch proposed a bill called “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” which would ultimately create a website blacklist that would give the Department of Justice the ability to censor certain websites. Leahy and Hatch used very persuasive and eloquent words that made the COICA sound like the best thing since TiVo.
The bill basically creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Internet providers like Comcast would be required to block any domains on the first blacklist sites. The domains that would go into the blacklist are the ones “dedicated to infringing activity.” These domains are defined very broadly — stating that any site on which counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” would be blocked.
The bill probably doesn’t sound too bad, but that’s what has so many people blind-sided. Copyrighted material is central to the activity to one of the most popular websites, YouTube. Copyright holder Viacom argues that this is true, and YouTube would probably one of the first to get censored.
If this act is a go, it will only affect America. Other people around the world would still be able to access any site that we cannot. This kind Internet censorship is exactly what the US government has criticized China and Iran about. Both China and Iran have blocked numerous websites, including Facebook.
If people are doing something illegal via the web, the government should take them to court, not shut the whole website down.
People are making an effort to stop COICA from passing. A small group called “Internet users against COICA” has formed on Facebook. There’s even an online petition at demandprogress.org, which gives you to the tools to share it with your friends and call your senator. Some don’t care if the Internet is government run, but there’s almost a guarantee that there are a lot more who do.
Merina Mesa is an advertising junior and may be reached at [email protected].