It didn’t take long after Fukushima meltdown on March 11, 2011 for concerned individuals to realize that they were not being told the truth about the disaster and its radiological consequences. We immediately turned to each other for information, via the good old-fashioned Internet. Websites like EnviroReporter.com, Fairewinds, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Potrblog.com and others stepped up and are continuing to provide critical information on the worst nuclear disaster humanity has faced to date. The information we provide isn’t complete, to be sure, but it’s vital and potentially live-saving.
Don’t count on being able to access uncensored information about Fukushima, or anything else, however, if SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) or its Senate version PIPA (the Protect IP Act) becomes law. While it’s stated purpose is to protect American intellectual property, the bill is loaded with measures that would potentially have a chilling effect on free speech and essentially put an end to the Internet as we know it.
SOPA is supported by large and well-financed entertainment industry groups but opposed by almost all of the major internet entrepreneurs and engineers as well as web-hosting and social networking sites who would find themselves in the unenviable task of playing big brother to their users or being shut down.
“These two pieces of legislation threaten to: Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload,” reads “An open letter to Washington” signed by co-founders of Google, Yahoo, and YouTube among others including the founders of eBay, Wikipedia, and Twitter. “This would have a chilling effect on innovation; Deny website owners the right to due process of law; Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.”
EnviroReporter.com’s web hosting company, Dreamhost, has this to say to its customers:
SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is what happens when people who don’t use the Internet attempt to regulate it. It’s a well-intentioned piece of legislation that has been written so poorly that, should the bill pass, nearly anything online could be considered ‘piracy’ in some form or another. SOPA would place ANY website that houses any form of user-generated content at immediate risk of shutdown and would effectively stifle innovation among web entrepreneurs.
If someone posted a link to copyrighted material in, say, the comments of your WordPress blog about cats and their sweater choices, we would have to shut down your ENTIRE domain as soon as we received a complaint about it – whether that complaint was valid or not! There would be no pre-shutdown courtesy letter, no friendly ‘please remove this from your site’. Just BOOM! The end. Obliterated. Everything gone.
The SOPA vote was delayed on December 16 and rescheduled for January 24th. Today it was announced that a public hearing will be held on January 18 in which technical experts will testify on security and other implications of SOPA.
If we don’t raise our voices loudly, now, we can kiss the golden age of freedom of information on the Internet goodbye.
To take action, you can go to:
Other resources (we may add to this list):
*January 14, 2012 UPDATE
The White House responded to two online petitions concerning SOPA with “COMBATING ONLINE PIRACY WHILE PROTECTING AN OPEN AND INNOVATIVE INTERNET.” While certainly comprehensive and positive in tone in response to anti-SOPA petitions, the Administration’s penchant for preaching one thing then doing another portends a rocky road ahead.
In what could be a sign of protests against SOPA to come, major Internet websites are spearheading a campaign to get Internet users’ attention by blacking out this Wednesday or creating anti-SOPA flash pages with links for further information.
Anti-SOPA Internet heavyweights Reddit and Boing Boing and all of the Cheezburger sites will be supporting the SOPA Blackout January 18. Cheezburger’s Fail Blog, ICanHaz, Memebase and all other websites under its banner will be supporting the SOPA blackout. EnviroReporter.com will be supporting this protest with an anti-censorship flash page visible to all who visit the site Wednesday.
One thing we note that seems absent from the anti-SOPA websites is the idea of a strike of the entertainment concerns behind SOPA. If this draconian legislation can’t be rolled back, the very real threat of Internet industry concerns against Hollywood could take a very real and costly turn.