Dear Lawmakers: Five Years Ago The Internet Rose Up In Protest & We're Still Watching
from the we're-still-here dept
As you may have heard, today is the five-year anniversary of the massive internet blackout that tons of internet users and sites participated in to protest a pair of awful copyright laws, SOPA & PIPA, which would have undermined some of the most basic principles of a free and open internet. In case you’ve somehow forgotten, go and take a look at the Archive Team’s world tour of sites that either went down completely or put up some sort of detailed splash page speaking out against the bills and in favor of internet rights and freedoms. Contrary to what some have tried to claim in rewriting history, that event was a true example of a grassroots uprising against legacy industries and government bureaucracies that wanted to shackle the internet and make it less open, less free and less powerful.
Since that day, there have been multiple other fights around internet freedom, having to do with mass surveillance, encryption, privacy, net neutrality and more. And there will continue to be more fights — some of them repeats of fights we’ve already had, and some brand new ones. In particular, we see that Congress is already dipping its toes in the water about copyright reform, five years after SOPA. For years, we heard that, after SOPA, no one in Congress wanted to touch copyright law for fear of “being SOPA’d.” However, with some of the new plans coming out for copyright reform, it appears that some in Congress are hoping that the internet has forgotten or moved on.
The internet has not forgotten. The internet is watching closely.
This applies not just to copyright reform, but the latest plans to do away with net neutrality. As outgoing FCC boss Tom Wheeler has warned, the new FCC undermines net neutrality at its own peril. The public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality, and attempts to undermine it will lead the internet to speak up again. Of course, if those in power have their way, part of the undermining of an open internet will be to make it even harder for the public to speak out — which is why we need to do so loudly while we can.
There are, of course, also ongoing fights about backdooring encryption and mass surveillance on the internet. We still need to reform ECPA and other outdated surveillance laws. Executive Order 12333 is still a massive blackhole of surveillance powers. Later this year, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act is going to sunset and there will be a fight over its renewal.
We can’t — and won’t — create a massive “internet blackout” for every single threat to internet freedom. Unfortunately, if we were doing that, it would happen far too often. But policymakers are being naive if they think that they can effectively DDoS the internet policy space by promoting so many bad policies at once that the internet won’t notice. We may not win every battle, but the internet is watching carefully what policy makers do around making sure the internet remains open and free — and is ready to speak out when those core principles are attacked by legacy industries unwilling to innovate or by policymakers too captured by industries who seek to block innovation.
The internet is watching. The internet has not forgotten. And policymakers that seek to undermine an open internet may discover just how quickly and loudly the open internet responds to such threats.