We've pointed out in the past the rather bizarre dichotomy of US politicians (including the President) speaking out against internet censorship in other countries
, while at the very same time supporting policies that censor websites in the US. Of course, the US censorship isn't about political speech, but about copyright issues. However, that doesn't make it any less censorship. In an excellent blog post by law professor Derek Bambauer, he makes this point
after highlighting the numerous concerns over Homeland Security's domain name seizures
The U.S. government is grabbing domain names to prevent users from reaching content it views as illegal. Not content that has been adjudicated illegal, as far as we know -- content that is alleged to be illegal. To content owners, and probably to ICE, it looks only natural that we’d prevent people from reaching information they view as stolen, or counterfeit. But it’s natural to China to censor human rights sites. Or Wikileaks, for that matter....
Every country in the world believes that some material on the Net qualifies inherently for censorship. It's obvious! In this respect, we're no different from China. So, we should give up pretensions of American exceptionalism for information controls -- for us, it's IP; for Saudi Arabia, it's porn; for France, it's hate speech. Only the quality of the legal process differentiates censors. And with these seizures, I think there's much to worry us in the (lack of) process...
This nicely summarizes the point that I've tried to make. When people claim that taking down entire websites (even ones that have plenty of legitimate content) through the US government seizing it isn't censorship because "it's copyright infringement," it sounds like the stories you hear from people in China who see absolutely nothing wrong with the Great Firewall there, noting that the government is just protecting them from "dangerous information." Both cases are about censorship, however. Same with France and Saudi Arabia. They're all situations where the government has decided that certain types of content should be blocked because it is -- in some way -- harmful. And those who agree that it is harmful say it's not censorship because it's "helpful." But that's simply not true. It's censorship, plain and simple.