Tuesday, January 17, 2012


SOPA, PIPA—two bills that would institute Internet censorship in the U.S.A.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia and sixth most visited site in the world, will join websites like the content aggregator Reddit to "go dark" on Wednesday in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which are currently being debated in Congress. "What these bills propose are new powers for the government and also for private actors to create, effectively, blacklists of sites that allegedly are engaging in some form of online infringement and then force service providers to block access to those sites,...’  Democracy Now, Wikipedia, Reddit to Shut Down Sites Wednesday to Protest Proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, 1/17/2012

by Larry Geller

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills moving quickly through Congress right now are supported by both parties, and threaten to open the Internet to US censorship. As the Democracy Now article notes, Congress has pushed these bills at the insistence of an extremely profitable movie industry, which has shown record profits for the past five years.

As the segment also notes, Congress has not consulted technical experts on the bills but is pushing forward in ignorance of their effects on the Internet. It would be accurate to say that they don’t know what they are doing.

Would censorship be limited to sites pirating movie or music content? Almost certainly not. Here’s a headline from the same program:

Homeland Security Hired Contractor to Monitor Websites

Newly released government documents have revealed the Department of Homeland Security hired the military contractor General Dynamics to monitor postings of U.S. citizens on dozens of websites. Sites monitored included Facebook and Twitter, as well as several news sites including the New York Times, Wired and The Huffington Post. General Dynamics was asked to collect reports that dealt with government agencies including the CIA, FEMA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the documents show the Department of Homeland Security was "monitoring political dissent online."

Creative Commons License Democracy Now content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

[Democracy Now, headlines, 1/17/2012]

First comes monitoring, then come arrests and censorship.

So far, the government has enforced its take-down actions largely by domain seizures. That is, if it wants to remove www.xyz.com from the Internet, it removes that domain name (xyz.com) from DNS servers. Then, when someone types in the domain name, they are redirected to a separate web page indicating that the domain has been seized. The DNS servers are the computers that take the xyz.com and translate it into the numerical address on the web where the website actually is located.

In response, several off-shore entities are experimenting with running their own DNS servers which are beyond the reach of the US government. They can even secure their operation by locating in two countries, since a DNS server has a primary and a secondary name server. This may be technical jargon to some, but it basically means that the domain seizures won’t stop anyone looking for a workaround.

Just as Chinese web surfers can find ways around their country’s tight censorship, so will American web surfers.

Should we allow our government to descend to this? Find out how you can help “Stop the Blacklist Legislation” by going to eff.org to learn how to take action.  The Senate may take up the legislation next week, so there’s no time to lose.

Related article: Google will protest SOPA using popular home page (CNET.com, 1/17/2012)


"monitoring political dissent online." Holy Cow!!!! If this is true every American is in danger of being monitored. For the record my plan is to continue to post my political dissent online on Disappeared New. If you don't see me for and extended period of time assume the worst has happened.

Glad that you have returned, larry. What is Hawai'i's senators position on this issue?

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