Did you know! It’s rumored that on November 16th, Congress will be hearing about censorship on the Internet with a bill introduced to the floor for debate that a lot of people are apparently very scared by. And there is something they are doing about it.
The bill in question is HR 3261, more commonly known as SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA is ostensibly being voted on to prevent online piracy. In reality, it could empower the government to censor the Internet kind of in the same crazy, scary manner a lot of countries American politicians claim to be not such big fans of. For example, via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
- “The new law would allow the Attorney General to cut off sites from the Internet, essentially ‘blacklisting’ companies from doing business on the web.”
- “Under section 102, the Attorney General can seek a court order that would force search engines, DNS providers, servers, payment processors, and advertisers to stop doing business with allegedly infringing websites. “
- “Under Section 103 (cleverly entitled the ‘market based’ approach), IP rightsholders can take action by themselves, by sending notices directly to payment processors—like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal—demanding that they cut off all payments to the website.”
And so on! If this sounds scary and slightly draconian, well, it is. It’s getting to the point that folks like Fred Wilson are getting involved.
Larry Downes, a Senior Adjunct Fellow at wonky digital rights thinktank TechFreedom called the bill “an unrestricted hunting license for media companies to harass anyone—foreign or domestic–who questions their timetable for digital transformation.”
Does this not jive with you? Chancing a guess, here: It probably doesn’t. And if that is the case, there’s now a meme-y movement for you to take part of if you want to protest the bill’s existence, let alone the threat of passage: American Censorship Day. The idea is basically: paste code given to you by AmericanCensorship.Org into your website on November 16th, 2011, and users will see a scary message that pretends to be the government censoring your website. Like so:
It gives visitors the ability to write their congressional representative through a neat little widget, without actually censoring anyone’s website (you can click through the window to the site).
So! Who’s going to put this bad boy up on their site? Anybody with advertising? We probably won’t, ’cause Betabeat gotta eat, unless we finally get that whole ‘Dead Poets Society’ day Ben’s been promising us for months now. In the mean time, the code and more information on American Censorship Day can be found here. Hopefully you’ll see it and think to yourself, assuming you’re a good human being, “That’s something I should really [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] but I don’t want to be the kind of person who [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] just go eat a muffin or something.”