Does Congress Really Want To Give China & Other Oppressive Regimes A Blueprint For Internet Censorship?

from the one-hopes-not dept

Rebecca MacKinnon, from the New America Foundation, has an absolutely fantastic opinion piece in the NY Times today, explaining why SOPA/PROTECT IP represent the Great Firewall of America, and why it’s the exact wrong approach. It notes that the bill doesn’t just bring the “major features” of China’s Great Firewall to America, but that it also strengthen’s China’s ability to censor. While she notes that the intentions are not the same, the “practical effect,” would be:

Abuses under existing American law serve as troubling predictors for the kinds of abuse by private actors that the House bill would make possible. Take, for example, the cease-and-desist letters that Diebold, a maker of voting machines, sent in 2003, demanding that Internet service providers shut down Web sites that had published internal company e-mails about problems with the company?s voting machines. The letter cited copyright violations, and most of the service providers took down the content without question, despite the strong case to be made that the material was speech protected under the First Amendment.

The House bill would also emulate China?s system of corporate ?self-discipline,? making companies liable for users? actions. The burden would be on the Web site operator to prove that the site was not being used for copyright infringement. The effect on user-generated sites like YouTube would be chilling.

I’d argue it’s even worse than that. We’ve already seen how countries like Russia have abused copyright law to stifle speech. Do we really want to justify that kind of activity? If SOPA/PROTECT IP is in place, any government around the world can put in place something similar, justify blocking access to just about any website by abusing copyright law to find some form of “infringement.”

In the hearings today, the MPAA’s Michael O’Leary somewhat stunningly suggested that repressive regimes that censor the internet are a model worth emulating in the US, since they didn’t “break the internet.” Perhaps he should speak to those who have had their speech blocked in countries like China and Iran to see how they really feel about that. And is he really comfortable setting up the same system here in the US? Is he convinced that it won’t be abused, despite the long history of abuse we’ve seen by the members of the MPAA? Just last week alone we heard a story about how MPAA member Warner Bros., took down tons of content it had no right to, including some open source software it just didn’t like.

Fact is: we’ve seen copyright law abused repeatedly, even by MPAA members, to stifle companies and speech they don’t like. We’ve seen how repressive regimes use the same tools in their countries to stifle speech. Setting up such a system in the US would be an epic mistake.

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Comments on “Does Congress Really Want To Give China & Other Oppressive Regimes A Blueprint For Internet Censorship?”

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Anonymous Coward says:


This line of bullshit had a stake driven through its heart by Mr Berman today. While Masnick gave the Pollyanna version of Sec. Clinton’s letter, one only needs to read Rep. Berman’s letter which it was in response to, in order to understand how damaging Sec. Clinton’s letter is to absurd FUD like this.

Perhaps the best part of today’s hearing was the outrage over the FUD being spread by opponents. They don’t seem to mind if you have your own opinion, but the lies and distortions are provoking a backlash. Keep up the good work FUDpackers.

gorehound (profile) says:


MPAA’s Michael O’Leary somewhat stunningly suggested that repressive regimes that censor the internet are a model worth emulating in the US

We really need a Campaign to do a true boycott of all things MAFIAA.These assholes get their way I can only hope that a full National Boycott of all things MPAA & RIAA takes place.All people should boycott the whole Industry.I have for the last 6 or 7 years.
No Theater Going
No Buying New Products that are digital ever and forever
No Buying New Physical Products
I buy only used physical products and nothing else


out_of_the_blue says:

IF I say "yes", will you explain China's growth despite oppression?

Look, you “capitalists”, you CAN’T square China being on the verge, or past, of becoming #1 in industrial output with your notions about economics. DESPITE being oppressive, China is now producing nearly all consumer electronics sold in US. Roll that sheer fact around in your head for a minute or two, trying to not ask what the hell that has to do with censorship…

Done? Well, means that ALL of your arguments based on economic utility are essentially hooey, disproven by this huge counter-example. By your notions, China should still be back in the 19th century, and collapsing. Instead, it’s growing and thriving, consuming like crazy. — And NO, I’m NOT a communist, don’t advocate thought-control, just see FACTS instead of falling for the “capitalist” myths.

Economics is all opinions about who gets to live in idle luxury and who labors like slaves. Mike here favors one bunch of grifters, as does MacKinnon: “The effect on user-generated sites like YouTube would be chilling.” — OOH, the HORROR! No more Youtube! — No mention of those who actually produce the content that’s being stolen. Doesn’t figure in their views.

Mike and his cohorts don’t care BEANS about actual producers and laborers any more than do the stinking Chi-coms. Their only interest in the products are how to “monetize” them for an unearned stream of income. That’s just one reason why I oppose Mike.

Now, as prefaced, to answer the title question: YES. That’s what governments DO.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey Mike, do you ever look at the IP logs for any of these trolls to determine if they come from IP blocks that are assigned to organizations like the MPAA, RIAA, Chamber of Commerce, etc? Outside of the people who get paid to shill for these organizations, I am flabbergasted that anyone would support this bill. I think Joe himself is spinning in his grave at the level of the McCarthyism of today.

MrWilson says:

IF I say "yes", will you explain China's growth despite oppression?

Actually, Mike’s position is in favor of artists and producers more so than just his business model ideas about “selling the scarcity” that you don’t understand.

Mike’s position is in support of Constitutional rights. Free speech. Due process. The whole shebang. The more these rights are secured, the more they are secured for everyone, including artists.

This bill is censorship. We’ve already seen companies issue takedown demands for perfectly fair use parodies that they simply don’t agree with. That’s a violation of free speech.

What’s to stop a company from telling an artist that they can’t say what they want with this legislation? “If you try to publish that story, we will SOPe it.”

You keep referring to grifters like actual profiteering pirates will be the only ones affected. The 99% are the people who will be adversely affected by this legislation and we aren’t all grifters.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Where can I read Mr Berman’s letter?

We covered it earlier.

And, trust me, LOTS of people inside the State Department are freaked out about this bill. The fact that Hillary wrote a letter not addressing anything in SOPA was a bad move. Her complaints are in general. Can you enforce copyrights without hindering internet freedom? Sure. But can you also do it in a way that does? Yes. Clinton doesn’t distinguish, and Berman misrepresented her claims. No one else at the hearing seemed to care about Berman’s letter, so not sure why this commenter thinks it was a big deal.

Anonymous Coward says:

IF I say "yes", will you explain China's growth despite oppression?

You’re right, OOTB. We should emulate China and their ability to make the money off melamine-contaminated milk, lead-painted toys and fake eggs and crabs. We should also emulate their government system in which the children of officers can get away with hit-and-run accidents, and send off children to concentration camps to be electrocuted because they use the computer too much.

What a crock of shit.

DCX2 says:

IF I say "yes", will you explain China's growth despite oppression?

China is now producing nearly all consumer electronics sold in US. […] By your notions, China should still be back in the 19th century, and collapsing. Instead, it’s growing and thriving, consuming like crazy.

I’ll give you a moment to reconcile the one comment of yours about how China produces all our stuff, with the other comment by you about how China’s consuming like crazy.

Done? Well, China doesn’t really have very high domestic consumption. That’s why they rely so much on exports. They rely on selling their stuff to other nations with free markets.

No mention of those who use YouTube to work around the traditional media system. For instance, did you know there are several types of video bloggers who give make-up tips, who have gained fan bases large enough to gain the attention of the major make-up manufacturers?

You pretend to care about the producers and laborers more than you actually do. Your only interest is that established forms of media maintain their dominance in the face of disruptive technology. These established interests have – time and again – been shown to lie, cheat, and steal from the producers and laborers (“Return of the Jedi is still not profitable” LOL)

One of the reasons I support Mike is because I believe he is right when he emphasizes that you should sell scarcity, and you should give people what they want in the way that they want it. If you do that, people will pay you for it (iTunes, Netflix, Steam, Nintendo Virtual Console etc).

Everyone wants to support the creators of content. To say that they don’t is a blatant straw man. But we do not want a futile fight against a phenomenon that cannot be stopped, especially when it involves waging war on your on customers and the occasional product which runs better when it is pirated (i.e. nocd crack for your netbook that has no CD drive)

Just John (profile) says:

IF I say "yes", will you explain China's growth despite oppression?

Dear Mr. Out Of The Blue,

You just lost any and all right to speak to anyone of sensibilities, because you just proved that you do not in fact understand China and the way it works.

So, lets start off by letting you know who I am.

I am an American, currently working in Taiwan for a Taiwanese company. Because other parts of my company are also in China, I too travel to China and regularly interact with Chinese nationals.

So, lets review how flawed your argument is.

You claim the economic growth in China represents a flourishing of China, even with a repressive government.

While you can point to the GDP for this information, you are not looking at the entire picture.

The average Chinese does in fact live like they are still in the 19th century.

The workers are grossly underpaid compared to the cost of living. In Shanghai, the most developed and international city in China, the cost of living is more expensive than most cities around the world, and the income level is much lower (Average of about 2,000 RMB per month, equivalent to $315 USD).

Most companies will employ severe methods to control workers. Please feel free to do some research in the Foxconn suicides. Companies use threat and coercion to deal with employees, and some (Normally those for the lowest level of labor) at times fail to pay employees or pay them less then owed.

In China, you will find that the socio-economic gap between the wealthy and poor are even worse than those found in the US. Even if you do a per capita breakdown of the second largest economy in the world, you will find that the per person breakdown, if wages were actually evenly split among all, is still lower than every other first world country. Remember, they have 1.3 billion people, not the US 300 million.

The average employee, in fact, due to their poor pay rates, cannot afford things such as health insurance and quality housing.

If you want to see this information first hand, from China, please feel free to go to the translate engine of your choice and read how Chinese actually live. I will avoid the “repression” of the great firewall of China for now because I have already pointed to enough with this post:

Teachers in rural areas make less than 1000 RMB per month (Less than 160 USD per month)

Housing prices have caused many “Migrant workers” (Migrant workers are those who come from rural areas or smaller areas in China to the major cities like Shanghai)

A young Chinese girl working in a brick factory to help support her family:

A 16 year old girl will be married to a 32 year old man when she reaches the age of 18 so their families can better cope with their poverty by combining resources:

I could keep going if you wish, but it gets rather depressing when you actually understand what you are talking about and the truth of what is going on. The truth that the great firewall of China tries so hard to block.

Just John (profile) says:

Occupy Wallstreet protesters cleared out, Chinese reactions

You know, I read an English blog daily that shows popular stories in China, and this was one of them.

There are some interesting points:
American officials always say China doesn?t have human rights, but them arresting people like this means they have human rights?? Americans are complete liars.

By, do not boast of democratic freedom!

Americans really powerful, forced evictions have the name of the slogans of democracy and freedom!

Driving ah, arrest, ah, ah true freedom! !

This is the human rights of the United States advertised

Americans really powerful, forced evictions have the name of the slogans of democracy and freedom!

Please feel free to visit:

If you want to see the original Chinese, and their full thoughts. I am just showing you how, even the Chinese are beginning to question the US ideal of “Freedom” as something that even Americans do not have anymore.

And people think censoring the internet for big money is a better solution? It will backfire worse on the US than a simple removal of protesters…

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