The open Internet is under threat but why is this happening?
When SOPA went under consideration there was a collective uprising amongst Internet users and website owners against the proposed bill. If SOPA or its slightly altered partner PIPA had passed through congress, the Internet would have been as open as a bank on a Saturday morning.
SOPA had devastating potential to turn innocent people into criminals with its overreaction to copyright infringement. By simply having features available to make it possible to post infringing content on a website, website owners and operators would land in the crosshairs of SOPA super agents.
The guys at Cyanide & Happiness sum it up nicely,
“Without user content portals like NewGrounds and YouTube the Internet becomes just another mainstream media outlet, instead of the wild proving ground of ideas that allows regular people like us to find a large audience.”
I will say this though. Walls only restrict those who do not possess ladders. Some computer savvy individuals quickly found a way to bypass SOPA’s restrictions and build the perfect ladder to climb the potential great wall of SOPA.
SOPA was bad. Its next incarnation (Because let’s face it, there will be another one) will also be bad. However, just because this evil force has been temporarily defeated does not mean that our Internet will remain open. There are threats in less obvious forms. The Internet is becoming a closed society because we are letting it happen.
As Zittrain (2008) says, in the wake of the Internet revolution came “unexpected cool stuff” and “unexpected very uncool stuff.” Essentially the freedom of an open Internet led to horrible things such as viruses, spam, identity theft and crashes. As a result we the people choose the completely controlled and efficient products such as the iPhone because “the promise of security is enough reason to give up that freedom” (Zittrain 2008).
Thomas Jefferson once said,
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
He may have lived in an era far gone but he still has a point that can be applied to the problematic issues of the Internet.
Oh, and just to emphasise how hated SOPA was, here is a video of Hitler’s take on the issue.
Zittrain, J 2008. ‘Thethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’. In The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp.101- 126; Available at: http://futureoftheinternet.org/static/ZittrainTheFutureoftheInternet.pdf