[Part two in a three-part series. Read part one here.]
“No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free, no one ever will” – Thomas Jefferson.
On 18th January 2012, an almighty battle will commence, the likes of which the world has never seen. The war zone will span timezones and continents, while its foot soldiers will span every segment of society. School kids; teachers; artists and CEOs, united as a single force to fight their common foe. Not a single shot shall be fired, and yet there will be numerous casualties. Casualties of truth, casualties of free speech and casualties of self-expression. Whatever the outcome of the battle, Wednesday 18th January will go down in history. It shall be known as The Day the Internet Fought Back.
But fought back against who exactly, and why has everyone got so much beef?
The unlikely target of the internet’s amassed artillery is a simple four-letter acronym: SOPA. It sounds so innocuous, doesn’t it? SOPA. SOPA is kind. SOPA is friendly. SOPA helps old ladies across the road with their shopping. What did SOPA ever do to hurt you?
Nothing yet, but she will if given the chance, just you wait. Don’t let that cute name fool you – bitch got teeth.
Unravel SOPA and you get the Stop Online Piracy Act. Unravel the Stop Online Piracy Act and you get a Godzilla-sized can of worms. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t particularly care for worms, which is why I’ve got a proposal. Let’s carve these mofes up by subjecting them to some intense scrutiny – the sort of scrutiny that involves a blowtorch and a blender. Then we’ll pour the little wrigglers back into the can and make soup with them, or as it’s known in Spanish, sopa. Yep, it’s that word again.
In case that analogy made no sense whatsoever, incidentally, here’s what’s going to happen: I’m gonna analyse the critical issues surrounding freedom of speech and internet censorship in my usual detached, professional manner. Along the way, I’ll probably throw in a fuck-ton of profanity, because nothing says ‘I’m pissed off at the world’ quite like a big bunch of superfluous expletives. Smoking might not be so cool any more, but swearing is still dope as fuck. To counterbalance all the intensity, I’ll throw in a few Joseph Fritzl jokes along the way. That usually does the trick.
Pinch your nose, close your eyes and prepare to plummet into the murky world of SOPA. We’re going in at the deep end.
“If the websites we know and love were suddenly to be switched off, how would we cope?” So asked yesterday’s blog on internet censorship. Tomorrow, we won’t need to ponder that hyperbolic question because we will be able to witness this spectacle for ourselves. Hundreds of popular websites including Wikipedia, Reddit, the Cheezburger network, Boing Boing and even Edinburgh Uncovered will be blacked out from 1pm-1am (GMT) as a symbol of protest against SOPA.
SOPA, SOPA, SOPA. OK, we get the message: SOPA is a big bad poopface that all the good people of the world want to fight, but why? What’s wrong with an act that’s designed to curb piracy – isn’t that a good thing? Do struggling artists not deserve a fair wage? Yes. Yes they do, but SOPA has nothing to do with protecting the little man and everything to do with preserving the rights of the privileged.
Wordpress, which has urged its 60 million users to stand up to SOPA, observed: “How would you feel if the web stopped being so free and independent? I’m
concerned freaked right the heck out about the bills that threaten to do this, and as a participant in one of the biggest changes in modern history, you should be, too.”
As it stands, there are so many holes in SOPA, it makes a colander look watertight. SOPA is so flawed, it makes the war in Iraq look like a masterstroke. SOPA is so wrong, it makes Joseph Fritzl look right. SOPA is so iniquitous, it makes internet bloggers resort to thinking up ever-more tenuous similes in an effort to express their disdain for it. In an exit poll I just conducted with my flatmate as he was walking out of the bathroom, 100% of respondents said they would rather experience death by scaphism than live in a world governed by SOPA.
You see, SOPA goes further than merely trying to address copyright infringement. SOPA knows no bounds. SOPA is a stranger who offers you a hug before leaning in to bite off your tongue and stick a finger up your arse. In case that came across as somewhat ambiguous, let me just clarify: SOPA me no likey. And not just me, but the internet as a whole, and when we talk about ‘the internet’ we are really talking about humanity, for we are all plugged in and hooked up to the drip-drip IV that feeds us our sleaze, scandal, sports and scat.
So we’ve bandied the SOPA acronym about, trash-talked it and established that its iniquity is rivaled only by that of Voldemort, but why? In a nutshell, why should we divert our attention away from Angry Birds for long enough to give a damn? Fuck nutshells, I’ll go one better – have an illustration. Click on the image below for a SOPA summary that’s more succinct than any Joseph Fritzl analogy I could conceive:
Woah, that does sound pretty scary. But if SOPA’s such a nasty piece of work, why haven’t I heard about it before? I read the papers and watch the news and shit. I don’t recall hearing any apocalyptic warnings about a piece of legislation that threatens to kill off ‘teh internetz’.
If SOPA doesn’t ring any bells, that’s because you won’t find much about it in the conventional media. The US major networks in particular have been quietly imposing their own blackout over the past few weeks – a news blackout. The old media, with its vested stakes in Hollywood and the music industry, are shit scared of the internet. They can’t control it and they’re petrified of losing a few dollars should the public elect to stream the latest Ben Affleck movie rather than pay for the pleasure of falling asleep to it in the cinema.
You may not have heard much about this nefarious legislation, but make no mistake, SOPA – and its sister acronym PIPA – are big news right now. News so big that it has the potential to change the way in which we all use the internet.
Hold on a sec, PIPA? Who’s PIPA – wasn’t she the one at the royal wedding with the tidy arse? No, that’s a different PIPA you’re thinking of. This one – the Protect IP Act – is less pleasing to behold, whatever angle you care to look at her from. As the Anonymous-friendly website Cyber Guerrilla explains, “On January 24, 2012, the Senate will be voting about the PROTECT IP Act, also known as PIPA. This legislation can be used to effectively censor any website on the internet that accepts user content, regardless of whether they are actually infringing on copyrights in any way, shape, or form.”
The Senate? Isn’t that in, like, America? What’s that got to do with an Edinburgh-based weblog and its largely Scottish readership? Why should we give a damn about the Yanks and their first world problems?
No one’s disputing that SOPA is a big baddy that needs to be double-tapped, but this is clearly an American bill. Surely then we should be leaving it to the Americans to deal with. I mean, we don’t like it when they poke their noses into our European affairs; is it not a bit hypocritical to start meddling in their shit? The truth is, when it comes to the internet, we’re all involved. Most of the readers of this weblog fall under the jurisdiction of the UK government, but that doesn’t mean we’re not affected. Because most of the websites we use are hosted on US servers, this legislation will encroach on everyone. And by ‘encroach’ I mean ‘tear the balls off’.
Take a blog like Edinburgh Uncovered for example. If I was to post up a link to a copyright infringing site like this one or this one or perhaps this one, I would instantly fall foul of SOPA/PIPA and potentially be liable for extradition to the US, with the threat of ten years’ imprisonment. Yeah, right. As if they’d do anything as preposterous as that.
Think again. Last week, the courts ruled that a British student could be extradited to the US for infringing their copyright law. Richard O’Dwyer faces imprisonment in America in spite of never having set foot there or having used web servers that were based in the country. His crime? Running a website that provided links – just links – to pirated content.
Reddit weren’t exaggerating when they observed, “The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy.”
The American government would essentially like to keep the web under lock and key, and to use it as its bitch. They would like to keep us, its users, in the dark, feeding us redacted information while they throat-fuck our civil liberties.
If they had their way, the internet would get Fritlzd.
What exactly are the US so scared of? All sorts. They’re scared of untraceable internet currency, they’re scared of the Silk Road, of VPNs, of proxies, doxes and Tor. They’re scared of Wikileaks and Anonymous exposing their malfeasance. In short, they’re scared of everything they can’t control.
The US, not surprisingly, want the power that comes with being able to control the web. In the real world, the geo-political struggles they wage have more to do with oil; on the web, it’s all about mastery: which nation has the best malware to spy on their enemies and which nation can control the big red button of ‘Lose’ that can shut the internet down when shit gets a bit too real for their liking. No, I’m not making this up. ‘My penis bruises cervixes?’ Yeah, I’m making that up, but the bit about the internet kill switch is sadly true.
The wars of the future will not be fought with soldiers and bullets: they’ll be waged from behind computer screens. He who controls the internet controls the world.
OK, Mr Angry Keyboard Warrior, we get it: the US are big meanies, and we should all just soak up your sixth-grade rhetoric and overrun the Capitol, is that correct?
Perhaps, but don’t let my ambivalence towards this legislation deter you from forming your opinion of it. If this shit interests you, watch the video and follow the links at the foot of this blog. Make up your own mind. Conversely, if you couldn’t give a rat’s skanky ass about SOPA, that’s cool; I ain’t here to beat up on you. Next month, I’ll be blogging about Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas and Yo! Sushi. This month, it’s all about censorship, SOPA and…hang on, wasn’t there a third entity referenced in the title of this blog? Ah, Anonymous. How could we possibly forget about those insurrectionary scallywags? No analysis of internet censorship would be complete without a gratuitous Vendetta mask and copious use of the ‘hacktivist’ moniker.
Should we love them or hate them? Should we birth or abort their babies? Were Anonymous really sent back through time to save our freedom of speech? And why are US pigs shitting donut goo at the very mention of the A-word? Report back here on Monday for another intensive session of stone poking. Who knows what scandal we’ll uncover?
Postscript: When you go to bed this evening, take a moment to think about what it would be like to live in a [REDACTED] primary [REDACTED] of communication [REDACTED] lot like this. Oh, and keep an eye out for ceiling cat. He’s always watching, you know.
[This blog is part two in a three-part series. Read part one here.]
More information on SOPA
Note: thanks in no small part to an unprecedented display of internet activism, the SOPA bill due for vote in Congress on January 24th has been deferred. PIPA is still pending however, while its ugly sister will return in the near future to face a vote. Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist and Edinburgh Uncovered, as well as hundreds of other websites, will still be blacking out tomorrow as a symbolic protest of these encroaching laws. Shit ain’t over yet: it’s only just begun.
[vimeo https://www.vimeo.com/31100268 w=400&h=225]
Opponents of SOPA: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, AOL, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy, Zynga, EFF, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX).
Infographic that neatly summarises how SOPA works – or rather doesn’t work.
Leading figures in the US voice their concerns over the proposed bill.
Anonymous guide to SOPA.
Rupert Murdoch makes a tit of himself.
US government cosies up to entertainment industry.
Times Live article on internet censorship.
YouTube video that explains the danger of the legislation.
Hitler Downfall parody of SOPA (there had to be one).
Video about the SOPA/PIPA blackout.
SOPA shelved for the time being.
PIPA lives on.
Information for webmasters supporting the 18th January blackout.
Why Wikipedia will be blacking out.
Could Facebook users join in too?
Add a Stop SOPA badge to your Twitter profile.
Follow Anonymous on Twitter.