Is the USA Trying to Censor the Internet by Stealth?

By | June 16, 2011

I read an article today about S.968 which is the proposed Protect IP Act introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy. It was designed to “provide the Justice Department and rights holders with important new tools to crack down on rogue websites dedicated to infringing activities,” Senator Leahy said during his introduction of the bill.

However, the tools suggested are directed not against the illegal sites, but against “specified U.S. based third-parties, including Internet service providers, payment processors, online advertising network providers and search engines.”

It allows a court to decide which websites can and cannot be accessed and which results Google (and others) is allowed to return.

Lets get that right. The government wants to control the internet, yes? Naturally, associated financial transactions are included.

As the commentator William Jackson observed recently:

“All well and good. Few are likely to come out in favor of trademark and copyright infringement. But this does not justify the totalitarian approach taken in his bill. In essence, Leahy is repeating the oft-heard refrain of law enforcement and government officials: “My job would be so much easier if I didn’t have to worry about civil liberties and personal rights!”

He is spot on.

Reading between the lines on that article, this is the start of the US trying to control what people can and cannot see on the internet. Its not altogether surprising, and it will take many years to come to its real intended purpose. But as with IMBRA, it will be ushered in to “protect” people, and then seeds will float off from it, and some will take root, as they have done with IMBRA by using its offshoots to attack the mail order bride industry.

Ultimate control of citizens is many governments’ aim. Some do it by dictatorships and communism; some do it by stealth, incrementally, under the guide of “protecting” someone or something. Intellectual Property is a good enough place to start. The IRS cannot tax free downloads so lets hit the “pirates” first eh?

The internet is relatively free and uncensored at the moment. Or so we think. Sites that want total free speech must host in Russia, Sweden or certain Asian or South American countries. In other words, the last bastions of the free world. However, the US controls much of the world’s DNS and can switch sites off at random (as we saw with Wikileaks). It takes dedicated techs to keep a site like Wikileaks afloat.

There was a time, several years ago, when this site was under threat of lawsuits from the US because of content hosted here. We were all poised to move hosting to Russia and/or host at multiple locations simultaneously, but the situation was diffused at the last minute. That said, we still get frequent legal threats from those who are not happy with something or other that is written here. My policy of not deleting stuff others find inconvenient, and digging my heels in when challenged, has not helped us stay out of trouble, but it has helped us gain and maintain credibility.

However, the internet wouldn’t function properly without Google. Google is a US company and that means it is subject to the whims of the US government eventually. The government has more money than Google, so they will win eventually. But it will take time.

Comments are welcome.

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