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 We still need to reform ECPA and other outdated surveillance laws.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.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 9:50am

    We may need blackouts or even harsher reactions next years. Prepare to fight back the train to the middle ages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 19 Jan 2017 @ 5:50am

      Re:

      I wouldn't recommend blackouts as they harm the businesses the sites represent by denying users the services or information they require. I use Wikipedia a lot for information (I cross-reference with the links in the footnotes) and when that went down, that's when I paid attention. I've been involved in activism ever since. I must confess I get a thrill from watching the opposition slink away with their tails between their legs when we win.

      Bearing in mind both the prospect of rear ends to be kicked and the fun I have kicking them, I recommend taking part in "Contact your representatives" campaigns because they're very effective. We need to not just rely on watchdogs like the EFF and TD, but actively support them by taking part in petitions and contacting representatives when this stuff comes up.

      It's not hard to work out which ones to get involved in; Mike embeds the legal documents and drafts of proposed laws in his posts. Anything that's relevant to where you, the reader, live, is the one you contact your representative about to ask if he or she knows about it and whether or not he or she will vote in favour of it.

      We also need to be talking about these things on our social media accounts and getting our family and friends on board, or even taking part in a leafleting campaign if there's one going on. Getting involved with pressure groups (I'm with 38 Degrees) gives you more reach — and access to people who will most likely support you in your own campaigns if you can talk them into it. Protip: if you're dealing with libertarians, talk about how $proposal impacts on their personal freedom. If you're dealing with socialists (they do a lot of protesting so I tend to work with them even though I'm not socialist myself), talk about how $proposal impacts on public tax-funded services. If you're talking to liberal progressives, talk about how $proposal impacts on the rights of the poor/minorities, etc. Basically, tailor your approach to the people you're talking to in order to get them on side. This DOES work.

      Pressure works, people. The trick is to keep it on until we win.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 10:20am

    GOP no friend of Hollywood

    On one hand, Republicans don't get along that well with Hollywood. On the other, Trump is corrupt AF and he's begging for approval from Hollywood, so who knows what we can expect over the next few years (as with anything, really, in regards to the Trump admin).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    djl47 (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 10:41am

    Elastic Definition of Net Neutrality

    Net Neutrality has different meanings depending on who is speaking. If its a VerizonComcastATT spokesweasel it will mean favoring our own content over any other content. Youtube and Netflix will use a different meaning and the end consumer just wants the bandwidth they're paying for. We need to make sure people understand the

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      djl47 (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 10:46am

      Re: Elastic Definition of Net Neutrality

      different meanings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 11:52am

      Re: Elastic Definition of Net Neutrality

      I don't think even Verizon, Comcast et al even try to explain that "net neutrality" is promoting your own content over others. They're just trying to say either that doing so isn't a violation of net neutrality, or that net neutrality is just an absolutist way of thinking and that we shouldn't pay that concept any attention.

      However, there are different definition circulating amongst politicians.

      • A strawman version is that "net neutrality" means that everyone must have the exact same access to Internet, forbidding price differentiation based on bandwidth or quality.
      • Another is that anyone must be allowed to do anything, like a "free speech" law on steroids, preventing enforcement of real-life laws.
      • Finally, the most crazy one I've heard is that net neutrality is giving edge providers free access to internet and customers. (That's purposefully ignoring that those services pay for their own infrastructure, including access to Internet, but no sophistry is below them.)

      Of course, given those kind of definition, most people will disagree with net neutrality or, at the very least, agree that it's too extreme. The fact that nobody actually advocating for net neutrality ever asked for anything close to those is what makes them "strawman" definitions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Giuseppe Cerrato (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 2:57pm

    Welcome to the Age of Everyman's Private Facts!

    Can there be rational discussions, valid conclusions, or any solutions without a commonly agreed set of Definitions and of Facts & Figures?

    How can one communicate with the paid-propagandists, the willfully ignorant, the anti-intellectuals, the volunteer-propagandists, and the political loyalists (seemingly unpatriotic by their actions)? Obfuscators, they be, one and all! Or are the simply suffering sociopaths (or psychopaths) overwhelmed by the complexities of the World today?

    Words used accurately should be describing reality, facilitating cooperative solution-seeking, I believe.

    Pity is all we can offer the self-deluded fearful fools trying to create Reality with their creative writing, fantasies, lies, IMHO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:45am

    Half-truths, lies, and damn lies

    "The public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality, and attempts to undermine it will lead the internet to speak up again."

    The problem is that the public in general is going to be o.k. with the current zero-rating schemes, because there is instant gratification. John Doe isn't worried about the next internet startup that won't happen because it can't afford the zero-rating tax, but he is happy that he isn't going over on his 5 gig data plan because video streams don't count against it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 1:58pm

    Remember that this was the also the anniversary of...

    The Kim Dotcom raid. It was (for me at least) the first indicator that big corporations can hire the DoJ as a mercenary service to use the color of law as a weapon to take out disruptive businesses.

    Dotcom's case is still in process, where the United States is using a shotgun spread of ambiguous charges such as conspiracy to put him in jail.

    All is assets were seized as well, so as to prevent him from mounting a defense (that got partially overturned later).

    This started on the same day as the SOPA blackouts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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