The secret behind SOPA, the so-called anti-piracy bill which is today the target of an unprecedented backlash with Wikileaks and other major websites ‘going dark’ to protest the legislation, has nothing to do with piracy or copyright theft – it’s about the formal effort to mimic Communist China’s system of Internet censorship.
But don’t take our word for it, listen to what Joe Lieberman, co-sponsor of PIPA, SOPA’s sister version in the Senate, said about the purpose of behind the US government’s efforts to control the Internet under the guise of cybersecurity.
Lieberman characterized fears that the US government would use such powers to censor political content as “total misinformation,” yet goes on to admit that the purpose behind the agenda is to mimic China’s ability to “disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war,” adding, “we need that here too”.
Of course, Communist China’s “war” is not against foreign terrorists or hackers, it’s targeted against people who dare to use the Internet to express dissent against government atrocities or corruption. China’s system of Internet policing is about crushing freedom of speech and has nothing to do with legitimate security concerns as Lieberman well knows.
Having largely failed in his bid to use fears over cyberwarfare, bearing in mind it was the United States and Israel who launched the Stuxnet attack, to achieve the ultimate goal of Internet control, Lieberman has returned with the same agenda only under a different guise – the Protect Intellectual Property Act – of which he is the co-sponsor.
Whether the justification is cybersecurity or anti-piracy, the end game remains the ability to seize control over the Internet and shut down websites on a whim.
Indeed, the is merely the act of legally codifying what is already taking place. Lieberman himself was instrumental in having the whistleblower website Wikileaks shut down when Amazon axed Wikileaks from its servers after being pressured to do so by Lieberman’s Senate Homeland Security Committee.
In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has already seized dozens of websites merely for linking to copyrighted material, despite the fact that such material isn’t even hosted on the website itself, a process the Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized as, “Blunt instruments that cause unacceptable collateral damage to free speech rights.”
The DHS has also seized websites for no ostensible reason, including a popular music blog that was shut down for over a year on charges the DHS now admits were completely false.
While the likes of Wikipedia and Google have commendably protested against SOPA and PIPA, the big ISPs and domain name companies are firmly behind it. Indeed, the global authority over all .com domain names, VeriSign, recently demanded the power to terminate websites deemed “abusive” when ordered to by government without a court order or any kind of oversight whatsoever.
Although massive protests by the likes of Wikipedia and Google have delayed a vote on SOPA, the bill is set to return to the House floor next month.
The ultimate end game of SOPA is not merely about handing the federal government the power to shut down websites. Once such powers are granted, the only way to police such a system would be to require all website owners, and eventually anyone who posts any form of content on the Internet, to require permission from the state to do so. This will take the form of an individual Internet ID for every user – again part of Lieberman’s favored Chinese-style system – which can be granted or revoked at the discretion of the authorities.
The so-called “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace,” created by NIST under the auspices of the U.S. Commerce Department, purports to offer an “identity ecosystem” under which Americans will be able to protect their information not with passwords but with a “single credential” stored on a smart card, a cell phone, a keychain fob or some other kind of gadget. This will then be used to access a myriad of data, including tax returns, health information, bank accounts and more, amounting to a passport for your entire life.
Under such a system, the state will be able to create a far friendlier environment for controlling the flow of information, Bill Clinton’s proposed ‘Internet Ministry of Truth’ will flourish, and Hillary Clinton’s concerns about “losing the infowar” will be addressed.
This is the true secret behind SOPA, it’s another step towards abolishing anonymity and creating an infrastructure under which, just as in the physical domain, every act of commerce, communication or exercise of freedoms will first have to be approved by an authority figure before it is allowed to take place.