A Clear and Present Danger to Internet Freedoms
Technologies are ever-changing and are transforming the way we communicate. The Internet has allowed citizens to be more empowered as speakers, inventors and consumers than ever before and legislation has recently been written that will directly affect those basic freedoms.
On January 18, 2012, organized protests occurred against two bills in the United States Congress – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Protesters were concerned these bills contained measures that could impede online freedom of speech, hamper Internet innovation and invite Internet security risks. Opposition also argued that there were no safeguards in place to protect sites based on user-generated content.
“These two pieces of legislation were poorly written and are bad for the tech community and tech policy,” said Brett Schenker, senior support specialist, Salsa. “These bills, if passed, would make it illegal to link to or to disseminate copyright material for a foreign website – the term ‘foreign’ is too broad. What is ‘illegal’ is also broad. It stifles free speech.”
The move to a more formal protest occurred late in 2011 when it was clear the House had started moving legislation forward. Congress was taking the SOPA and PIPA bills seriously and it was likely they'd get pushed through without much fan fair or education on what the legislation was really about.
Moving People to Action
When Congress threatened innovation and free speech by creating legislation that would grant the government and private parties unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet's underlying infrastructure, more than 100,000 websites across the U.S. took up the fight.
Media coverage of the bill was minimal. Proponents, including the entertainment industry, wanted this legislation to pass quietly without opposition.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) needed to increase the visibility of the proposed legislation and get their message more broadly distributed to create enough public pressure to stop the anti-piracy bills in Congress.