How Other Parts Of The World View SOPA

from the not-good dept

We keep pointing out just how disastrous SOPA and PIPA look from a diplomatic perspective. Just as the US is going around talking about the importance of internet freedom, to start pushing a bill that involves censorship (and yes, it is censorship) looks really bad. SOPA supporters like to point to Hillary Clinton's letter that said there's no conflict between internet freedom and copyright enforcement. But she did not comment specifically on the bills at issue -- and furthermore her statement is wrong. There doesn't have to be conflict between the two, but you can't say there's never conflict between the two, because you could easily design a rule that proves otherwise (e.g., "we shut down the entire internet to prevent infringement.") The State Department, frankly, is having a really tough time straddling both sides of this debate, because everything they say about the importance of internet freedom acts as the perfect arguments against SOPA.

But, really, the true test of the diplomatic impact of SOPA on the international community is not what the State Department says... it's what those other countries say. And they seem pretty shocked that this is the path the US is going down. Here are two examples. First up, we have the Voice of Russia, noting that the US is joining China in censoring the internet:
The US and the West have long criticized China for stifling dissent and for censorship but now they are not only joining China but they are taking censorship even further and attempting to censor the whole world.

The international implications of SOPA are worrying for as experts claim: it appears that the US is taking control of the entire world. The definitions written in the bill are so broad that any US user who uses a website overseas immediately gives the US the power to potentially take action against it and enable them to force ISPs to DNS-block any foreign site.

On a global scale it grants the U.S. Government far-reaching powers to go after Web sites which it claims are hosting copyrighted content.... Not long ago the U.S. admitted that it was in a state of information warfare and that it was losing the war. So what do you do if you are losing the information war? You muzzle the messenger.
Considering Russia has a bit of a history using copyright law to stifle political critics... folks there certainly know exactly how censorship via copyright can lead to much more than just protecting a few companies.

Now, let's jump over to the Middle East, where Al Jazeera is pointing out the State Department's rank hypocrisy on this subject, assuming that Clinton's letter was, in fact, in support of SOPA, and showing how that seems to undermine the rest of the State Department's arguments for internet freedom around the globe -- especially when it comes to circumvention tools:

In the year and a half since, the State Department has had limited success promoting online awareness and circumvention tools in foreign countries. But given SOPA's incredibly broad definitions of which sites are liable under its censorship provisions - merely claiming the site "engages in, enables or facilitates" infringement is enough - it won't be long until the bill destroys social networks that spread news of protests and the anonymity software that keep activists protected.

Many tech groups worry social networks such as Facebook - which were instrumental in organising protests in Egypt - would be at risk under SOPA. Brooklyn Law School professor Derek Bambauer also argues YouTube, which hosts countless human rights videos, would be "clearly unlawful", since it allows users to upload videos that may contain copyrighted content. While Google and Facebook may have enough money and lawyers to fend off lawsuits and court orders without being shut down completely, emerging social networks in foreign countries would not. Any site hosting videos, even if they are used to draw attention to human rights abuses, will be easily derailed if an overzealous copyright holder decides to use one alleged violation to strangle the whole site.

But circumvention tools - which allow activists to foil internet censors and evade government surveillance - would be the bill's greatest casualties. While many are developed explicitly for human rights advocates, they can also be used to download copyrighted content. Tor, the anonymising software that masks users' IP addresses that was instrumental during Egypt protests, would be a prime target of copyright holders, despite being funded by the US government.

In fact, most of internet freedom programmes currently funded by State Department are in danger. Hillary has pledged millions of dollars to various companies to create a "shadow" internet "that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments", according to the New York Times. But by endorsing SOPA, Hillary is giving the green light to copyright holders to destroy it. Virtual Private Networks, proxies, privacy or anonymisation software could all potentially be deemed illegal if they can also help get around SOPA's censorship mechanisms.

Even if Clinton truly believes that SOPA doesn't harm the US's diplomatic position on internet freedom around the world, it sure looks like large parts of the rest of the world disagree. The site TorrentFreak recently had a caption contest about a photo showing MPAA boss Chris Dodd sharing a hearty laugh with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui. Perhaps they were laughing about how the bill that Dodd is pushing is the perfect cover for the Chinese the next time the State Department asks them to stop censoring the internet.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:17am

    OOO, perhaps!

    Well, given the manner in which the United States allegedly helped protesters in other countries bypass the censors/filters in their home country, maybe we should be watching for when China/Russia/etc start providing the same service to US citizens!

     

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      The eejit (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:51am

      Re: OOO, perhaps!

      Then the corpo^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the US will declare war on China and Russia, then get the UN to try and sanction them.

      THEN, China will start charging US firms dodecatuple times what they're charging now for the manufacturing process.

      THEN, hilarity ensues.

       

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      A Guy (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:56am

      Re: OOO, perhaps!

      Hmmm...

      I can see it now. An application to simultaneously share internet connections. They can use ours to look up the actions of the tyrannical dictators of their past and we can use it to bypass the oppressive present in ours.

       

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      Franklin G Ryzzo (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 11:19am

      Re: OOO, perhaps!

      To me, this whole fiasco is a matter of wanting to have cake and wanting to eat cake at the same time, couple with a bit a the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing...

      On the one hand, we want to go around the world condemning censorship and promoting a free and open internet whenever we can point a finger at another country to say they've done wrong. We want to speak out against countries like China, Iran, Libya, and the rest for not allowing their citizens a voice. We even want to fund the development of services like TOR and other technologies to help fight censorship and ensure communications for citizens under the thumb of an oppressive regime. But we are showing the world we have a very "do as I say, not as I do" attitude when it come to practicing that which we preach.

      On the other hand we want to try and pass legislation like SOPA/PIPA which allows for the very same censorship that we were just speaking out against. It's amazing to me how boldly two-faced we can present ourselves on the global stage.

      The rest of the world sees this double standard, and just like you said, they'll soon be providing tools to circumvent American censorship initiatives just the same as America has done to aid those oppressed.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Russia and Al Jazeera? Oh man. The trolls are gonna go ballistic on this one.

     

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      Donnicton, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:28am

      Re:

      Well, let's just consult the big book of mpaarthyism on this one....


      ...Ah, here we are!


      Russia and Al Jazeera are against this, therefore if you're against SOPA you're for Marxism and terrorism!



      Didn't you forget already? If you're against SOPA you're against protecting our troops!

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111115/17200316783/sopa-sponsors-pass-sopa-to-protect- troops-everyone-else-wtf.shtml

      If you're against our troops, and for terrorism, you're obviously an Al Qaeda and your site needs to be shut down by the TSA! (How's the TSA related to this? Please consult ICE operations manual chapter 17 paragraphs 73-B and 92-C)




      (Disclaimer for the dense: I am well aware that Al Jazeera is not a terrorist organization)

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      Russia and Al Jazeera? Oh man. The trolls are gonna go ballistic on this one.

      Masnick's affinity for nations and their propaganda arms that are hostile to the US and US interests is hardly newsworthy. He's been pandering to Russian media for some time now. His attempts to legitimize Al Jazeera are a repugnant joke. There appears to be no toilet that Masnick won't gladly swim in to further undermine copyright and promote continued, rampant infringement.

       

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    iamtheky (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:26am

    Not a SOPA supporter in the least, however:

    This post is a bit like being against our war activities and quoting the Westboro cult as a supporting viewpoint.

    Be mindful of your friends as they determine your enemies.

     

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      Trails (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:29am

      Re:

      Sorry, what? You're comparing Al Jazeera and Voice of Russia with Westboro Baptist Cult? With a straight face no less?

      Al Jazeera and VoR are news sources, not gov'ts, and have fairly substantial pull in their locales. While at times hyperbolic, they are a good informal litmus test of the popular perception of SOPA in their locales.

       

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        iamtheky (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re:

        that was actually supposed to be a reply to the trolls going ballistic on this one.

        Seemed to the trick anyway, and deadpan delivery is the only delivery.

         

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        Chris Rhodes (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re:

        Seriously, outlets like RT and Al Jazeera are practically the only news outlets I trust anymore for US news, seeing as they don't have any reason to suck up to the US government.

        Now, if I want to hear criticism on Russia's government, for example, I would choose someone else. But for US news they are refreshingly straightforward.

         

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          The eejit (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, A-J have done some pretty nasty stuff on Russia's government, as well. They're pretty impartial, all things considered.

           

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          Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:58am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Seriously, outlets like RT and Al Jazeera are practically the only news outlets I trust anymore for US news, seeing as they don't have any reason to suck up to the US government.

          Now taking bets on when they will be SOPA'd in the event it passes.

           

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            mike allen (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Both AJ and RT are on satellite tv in most countries not sure of USA in the uk are on over the air terrestrial tv along with BBC ITN and SKY news.

             

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    Hulser (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:30am

    Irony alert

    Not that there aren't countries who agree with the sentiments expressed by the Voice of Russia and Al Jazeera, but it's too bad we won't know about those unless there was some kind of leak of dipolatic cables...like the ones that were released by Wikileaks...which had its source of funding cut off in the same way that SOPA would allow.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:34am

    You seem to assume the world overlooks eternal wars,

    and still views America as good. Tain't so. That's typical American chutzpah of exceptionalism. But /this/ century, a criminal cabal has taken over US foreign policy, and is now moving toward the real goal of a domestic police state.

     

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      Trails (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:40am

      Re: You seem to assume the world overlooks eternal wars,

      Wait you mean Mike isn't hysterical, ignoring the real problem, or contradicting his position on Chuck D.?

      Who are you and how did you hack blue's account?

       

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      Chris Rhodes (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:47am

      Re: You seem to assume the world overlooks eternal wars,

      I'll never be able to figure out how OOTB can be so fearful of all the political machinations we see in the world today, and yet consistently come to the defense of any governmental action (so long as Mike opposes it, apparently).

      He's either got multiple personalities, or he must have a bitch of a time with cognitive dissonance.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:48am

      Re: You seem to assume the world overlooks eternal wars,

      I can appreciate a good tinfoil hat, but I think the heat is starting to cook your brain a bit. Look back a little in history. I think you may be surprised that this type of behavior isn't all that different or exceptional.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:54am

    wow

    They even want a monopoly in fascism.

     

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    anonymous, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 10:22am

    it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks about SOPA, PROTECTIP or the US itself. the views will be totally ignored, whilst at the same time every other country that does/is doing something similar will be condemned. basically it's because the US thinks there is no better country, it thinks it's the dogs bollocks, it thinks it is always right over everything, it thinks that whatever it says goes, it wants to be able to have access to everything in those other countries while preventing other countries from having access to stuff in the US. hypocritical, megalomania-cal and ridiculous! luckily, the majority of US citizens are not like that

     

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    johnny canada, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 10:23am

     

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    Bill, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 10:28am

    Human rights violations?

    It is clear that SOPA as it stands is a major human rights violation...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 10:34am

    No No No No No!

    How many times do we have to tell you - it's not hypocrisy!

    When the government censors you because you're saying something the government doesn't like, that's bad.

    When the government censors you because you're saying something that a corporation doesn't like, that's perfectly reasonable!

     

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    haiku, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 11:01am

    >> luckily, the majority of US citizens are not like that

    That may very well be true, but the fact that your elected representatives are pushing for these laws does very little other than to create the perception that the majority of US citizens support these actions ...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    I guess if people say enough times that SOPA/Protect-IP are all about censorship, then others may start to believe this is really the case, and especially countries with no concept of the First Amendment and a long (and sometimes murderous) history of not broaching dissent.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    SOPA/PIPA is the last of the last things we should all have to take from this damn corrupted Government.They get nothing done but they sure do argue a lot.They all take big money and buy stocks in ways that would put as normal citizen in jail.They do not care about any of us.There are only a small handful of nice Politicians surrounded by an Army of Yes Men and Greedy Money-takers.
    They want to censor us then I say this means WAR.Go ahead and open up the door of Censorship and see what that gives you.If so then I would certainly join any protest at bringing down the Internet Government Sites,hacking into their Networks and destroying them with viruses,causing Internet Mayhem and bringing down CC Cardsites,Banks,MPAA,RIAA, and other Corporate Asses.I will gladly go to Jail for standing up for the rights I would of lost due to a bunch of sold-out asses.
    We may have to face tough choices if these toilet paper bills pass and then I hope the doors of insurrection open wide in response.
    WE, as Citizens should only have to take so much and letting this door to Censorship open even a crack goes against everything we stand for in our great and FREE COUNTRY.
    We will no longer be FREE ! So we should act like those who also are not free and fight the system any way we can.
    Sorry if you do not like this but if these pass we will have to have a response.We should not go down for the count without a fight.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    SOPA/PIPA is the last of the last things we should all have to take from this damn corrupted Government.They get nothing done but they sure do argue a lot.They all take big money and buy stocks in ways that would put as normal citizen in jail.They do not care about any of us.There are only a small handful of nice Politicians surrounded by an Army of Yes Men and Greedy Money-takers.
    They want to censor us then I say this means WAR.Go ahead and open up the door of Censorship and see what that gives you.If so then I would certainly join any protest at bringing down the Internet Government Sites,hacking into their Networks and destroying them with viruses,causing Internet Mayhem and bringing down CC Cardsites,Banks,MPAA,RIAA, and other Corporate Asses.I will gladly go to Jail for standing up for the rights I would of lost due to a bunch of sold-out asses.
    We may have to face tough choices if these toilet paper bills pass and then I hope the doors of insurrection open wide in response.
    WE, as Citizens should only have to take so much and letting this door to Censorship open even a crack goes against everything we stand for in our great and FREE COUNTRY.
    We will no longer be FREE ! So we should act like those who also are not free and fight the system any way we can.
    Sorry if you do not like this but if these pass we will have to have a response.We should not go down for the count without a fight.


    Other than a set of balls and any talent, what is preventing you from taking action right now?

     

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