From Bad to Worse
Senator Charles Grassley has repeatedly failed to sponsor Net Neutrality legislation that would guarantee you, not your internet service provider, decide which websites you can visit. His latest stunning move however, makes you long for the days when he simply turned his back on defending your internet rights. Senator Grassley is currently co-sponsoring legislation with Senator Patrick Leahy [D-VT] that empowers the government to shut down websites, one-by-one. S. 3804 allows the government to keep “blacklists” of websites it deems, unilaterally and without any kind of judicial review, are “dedicated to infringing activities.” The bill also provides legal immunity for internet service providers that work with the government to shut the websites down. Consider how many internet service providers are going to opt for defending you and the Constitution over legal immunity.
This bill not only targets potentially infringing portions of websites, it allows the government to block access to the entire domain. How many blogs and websites have photographs, pieces of text or clipart taken from another website? While I am a strong proponent of defending one’s intellectual property, empowering the government to extra-judicially shut down an entire domain before an accused is even allowed to plead his or her case is simply Orwellian. The framers of the Constitution must be rolling over in their graves over this bill.
Making the Department of Justice and the Attorney General bagmen for corporate copyright interests “runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the internet.” As noted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “[w]ithout safeguards and a thorough accounting of the consequences, laws and policies targeting so-called ‘pirates’ can be used to pry away human rights and undermine fundamental elements of democracy and freedom.”
Down, But Not Out
The one piece of good news is that due to the quick response from defenders of an open internet, such as people like you and entities like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed the scheduled markup of this internet censorship bill until after midterm elections. Apparently, throwing your constituency under a bus right before an election does not make for warm and fuzzy political campaigning.
This Internet killer is not gone; it is simply on the back burner until after mid-term elections. Between now and the elections, you have the opportunity to send a strong message to Senator Charles Grassley and the bill’s other co-sponsors. Your vote will send a message that Congress is accountable to people, not corporations.