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.

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Comments on “How Other Parts Of The World View SOPA”

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34 Comments
Donnicton says:

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)

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

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.

anonymous says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

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.

gorehound (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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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