Think about how many times a day you use the Internet. In modern society, it has become essential to education and communication. Use of the Internet may be as simple as IMing a friend or posting a “mupload” to Facebook, but it’s also become a fundamental tool for many recent protests and revolutions. It connects billions of people worldwide daily. The power of the Internet and social networking is astounding. Imagine if that power was taken away from you. Soon, it could be. Today, hearings for the Protect IP/Stop Online Piracy Act began.
The proposed act aims to give the government the power to censor websites on the Internet relating to the entertainment industry. Private companies and corporations want the power to take down sites that use their content without permission (i.e. sites where one can download movies, music, television, and other forms of media). If the act is passed, the US federal government will have the ability to block websites that infringe upon copyrights. They will also be able to force search engines to take down links and certain search results. Furthermore, the act would give the government the power to force advertisers to cancel their accounts with infringing websites. This could easily make start up search engines and social media sites go bankrupt. Other established social media websites could also be affected by the vague wording in the act. Websites on which users post content freely could be changed or shut down entirely: examples being Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, and other important forums. Under the proposed act, these websites would be liable for whatever copyrighted media their users might post. As well as policing the content of the Internet, the act would also change how the itself Internet works, by tweaking the domain name registry process. Though it’s seemingly harmless, these changes could actually make the Internet less secure and more susceptible to hacking. And possibly the most terrifying prospect: under SOPA, any civilian who posts any sort of copyrighted work could go to jail for up to five years.
The government already has considerable power over the Internet. They’re able to take down content from webpages, sue sharing websites and prosecute civilians who engage in large scale piracy. But, were it to be passed, SOPA would take these privileges and expand them- quite possibly to the extent of limiting free speech. SOPA could kill jobs by shutting down major social networking sites, whose prosperity our already fragile economy heavily relies on. If you wish to join the growing effort to get SOPA thrown out of Congress, follow the links below and sign the online petitions. You can also spread awareness by telling a friend, or posting on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr. Use the Internet wisely now, while you’re still able to.
-Emily Bergmann, Staff Writer