Monday, April 22, 2013

CISPA is just SOPA/PIPA with a new coat of paint

And if a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, don't try to tell me that this bill doesn't REEK of Big Brother.

I'm not a consistent blogger.  I get that.  I'm friendly with a couple, so maybe I can get some pointers from someone on how one runs a successful blog so that when I do big posts like this, I'm not just shouting into an echo chamber.  However, it is what it is, and this is important, so I'm going to shout myself hoarse again, and if I can inform just ONE person, at least I've done SOMETHING.

So, a little over a year ago, you may recall the hubbub surrounding SOPA and PIPA as the impending doom of the internet.  The bill passed the House and the alarms sounded.  Social media became a sea of stop signs, do not enter signs (with explanations of the measure; that one happened to be my icon of choice), and plain red or black boxes.  Google and Wikipedia even participated in the blackout, so extreme was the opposition to this proposed internet tyranny.  Reddit, Tumblr, and many other internet giants took a stand.  It was hailed as "the largest online protest in history," a status that I feel would have more punch if the internet had been around for longer, but that's neither here nor there.  What's important is that, even at the time, protesters were encouraged not to let our guard down.  We were warned it could come back.  Warned that it probably would.

Well, here it is.  CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed the House in the midst of the Boston Marathon Manhunt.  Ah, politicians; what better time to push an agenda than in the wake of a tragedy and the chaos that follows?  We saw it with September 11 and the War on Terror (e.g. the Orwellian and deliberately misnamed Patriot Act).  We saw it with Newtown and gun regulation.  Apparently, the Boston Marathon Bombing is, in some twisted, typically political way, being used to push this carte blanche invasion of privacy.

Clearly, the internet is ready!  There's another blackout planned for April 22!  We'll just bring down the whole internet all over again, right?  If you bothered to hit that link, you'll realize we've got a harder fight on our hands this time.  It seems like Google is quietly supporting this legislature, alongside Yahoo, Microsoft (unsurprisingly, in my opinion), and Apple (also not shocked).  At the links to these giants, you will find contact information for their PR departments and/or investor concerns.  I recommend starting there.

Facebook, impressively, stands among the companies NOT backing the bill.  Mozilla, as they did with SOPA/PIPA, also stands against the bill, stating that it has a "broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security" (

The issue with the bill is a very real and very dangerous one that has persisted even within the amendments that have been made to it over the last year, and, as an educator and lover of language, one that  I find to be egregious; the language is entirely too nebulous.  Why is that a problem?  When laws aren't clearly defined, it's hard to defend against their abuse.  We have landmark cases that set precedents for a reason.  These are the things to which we refer in cases where something dodgy is going on to make sure that the rights of the persons involved in any given case are not violated.  In times when emotions are high, such as following the Boston Marathon Bombings, we may, as a country, feel tempted to throw due process to the wind.  "So what he's an American citizen?  He's a terrorist, put him under the jail!"  The part that people don't fully seem to realize is that mistakes do happen; early in the investigation, a missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi was erroneously identified by the internet, via Reddit, as one of the perpetrators, and the New York Post went so far as to run an image, on their front page, of 'these two [men] pictured at Boston Marathon' who were later determined not to be the brothers responsible for the bombing at all.  Without the due process of law, we truly do give way to witch hunts a la Salem in 1692--lots of finger-pointing, and who knows how many innocent deaths.  It's that highly emotional frenzy, however, that lawmakers are counting on to push this legislature through.

What poorly worded legislature of this nature does is fling the floodgates open for carte-blanche spying.  Doesn't matter why, if the government decides it wants your info, none of the sites with their so-called "privacy agreements" can hold back a thing, AND they can't be held accountable for anything that happens as a result of oversharing your information.  The EFF breaks down the amendments to CISPA that passed, as well as those that failed, quite nicely, and details the ways in which it still forces you to sacrifice your freedom in the name of "protection."

So what's an internet savvy citizen who values their freedom to do?  Contact your Senators, first and foremost.  Those guys and gals actually do the voting, so you need to make them understand, clearly but politely, that you, as their constituents, and the people that decide whether or not they get another term in office, do not approve of this legislation.  And after them?  Remember the links I posted a couple of paragraphs up for the PR and/or investor concerns for the companies that have come out in support of CISPA?  If you are an investor, call them and tell them how you feel about the legislation.  Again, well-reasoned and level-headed will get you much further than threats or name-calling.  If you're not, you can still make an impact as a concerned consumer.  Don't let them off the hook.  This is dangerously Orwellian stuff here.