Most people are aware that China has implemented a massive firewall in efforts to censor the Internet. While most have thought this type of censorship was something that would never been seen in the United States, a bill currently being considered by the House may change how millions of Americans use the Internet each day.
Known as the Protect IP Act, the bill will implement some firewall features that are quite similar to those found in China. Through the bill, the attorney general will have the power to unilaterally create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, payment providers, search engines and advertising networks without having a court hearing or a trial. The House version, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, will even allow private companies to sue service providers who unknowingly host content that infringes upon copyright, even if it is up for only a short period of time. This will represent a significant change from current legislation, which protects service providers so long as they remove the content immediately after being notified.
While the legislation has been proposed in an effort to protect and enforce copyright, the implications of the bill are quite frightening. For user-generated sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the bill could result in a complete shutdown. After all, if the bill goes into effect, these sites will face legal action if users put copyright-protected content on their sites. Rather than hiring thousands of people to monitor their content, many of these companies may have simply cut their losses and go offline. Yet, many well-financed organizations are currently backing the bill. These include:
- The American Federation of Musicians
- The Directors Guild of America
- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters
- The Motion Picture Association of America
- The Screen Actors Guild
- The United States Chamber of Commerce
Unfortunately, even if companies are willing to spend the money to have their sites monitored, research has shown that employees have a tendency to over-censor. Rather than take the risk of something being free for public use, employees choose to block content in order to be on the safe side. As a result, citizens of the United States face the possibility of extreme online legislation of the bill manages to pass. For this reason, many companies have expressed their opposition to the bill. These include google, Twitter, Facebook and other major online companies.
To make your voice heard in opposition of the Internet Censorship bill, visit the American Censorship website. Here, you will be directed to a simple form that will allow you to voice your opposition to lawmakers. You can also access simple HTML code, which you can use on your site to temporarily show your site as “blocked” in order to raise awareness when people visit your site. Tumblr has also made it easy to call your congressperson by simply visiting the Tumblr’ web page, or you can sign this online White House petition.