Skip to content

They’re Coming for the Internet. That Can’t Happen.


The Internet has brought us many gifts: enhanced commerce, an incredible wealth of information, efficient social networking, the ability to easily form groups, and the ability to reach a large audience, to name a few.

As John Paul Chulliyil pointed out on Triple Pundit yesterday, the mainstream media didn’t give the Occupy Wall Street protests any coverage until a combination of policy brutality and growing awareness online left them no choice. Chulliyil dubs the Occupy movement the “American Spring”, but he remarks on its contrast with the Arab Spring, in that Arab world’s mainstream media coverage was robust.

The mainstream media’s initial silence and its current representation of the protesters as clueless hippies speaks to a larger phenomenon at play in Western countries.

Chulliyil worries that corporations will now pressure the government to place restrictions on the Internet, hampering communication between would-be protesters and dissenters on Facebook, Twitter and other websites.

Image credit: Colin Jacobs

In fact, that’s already happening.

SOPA is the US Senate iteration of legislation also introduced in the US House of Representatives, where it’s called PROTECT-IP. In the name of protecting intellectual property, it would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to take down websites that are accused of copyright infringement.

The practice of taking down entire domains sometimes causes thousands of underlying websites to go offline as well, even though they might not have committed any wrongdoing.

But SOPA is a little different from PROTECT-IP, in that it would also require ISPs to monitor their users’ online behaviour and to police infringement. ISPs whose policing efforts are considered insufficient would be under threat of legal retribution.

If that sounds familiar, it may remind you of similar legislation the Canadian Conservatives have been trying to sneak through, which I’ve posted about before. If the Conservatives have their way, Canadian ISPs would be given taxpayer money to install expensive infrastructure in order to spy on Canadians’ Internet use. In Canada, they’re justifying this not by screaming “Protect intellectual property!” but by yelling “Fight crime!”

In both countries, Internet freedom is at stake. And if that goes, say goodbye to freedom in general.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. John Erickson permalink
    10/28/2011 9:41 PM

    Oh, I’d have to say, given my personal experience in I/T for many years, that folks will always find a way around. So you don’t refer to your group as Occupy Wherever, but as the Intraurban Dominoes Society. Or something equally inane. Simple code, passed around via phone messages separate from your website, changing “meetings” to “games”, “contributions” to “bets”, and so forth.
    Believe me, you young whipper-snappers are ALWAYS a step ahead of us old farts! ;) :D

  2. 11/04/2011 12:45 AM

    While encouraging, I think being forced to resort to such tactics would severely impede the hallmark openness of the Occupy movement. I fear for its success, if that happens!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: