Censorship – How far is too far?
I’m certain many of you would be aware of the controversy in recent months surrounding the plight to legislate internet censorship laws, in particular SOPA and PIPA in the US. For those that don’t know, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) were bills that were introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, in order to empower law enforcement to protect the intellectual property rights of content creators.
Seems fair doesn’t it?
Perhaps, but it is the broadness and ambiguity of this law in which the real problems lie.
Basically, if these bills were to be approved it would give authorization to law enforcement to essentially shut down any website they feel is in violation of copyright. This could include, but would not be limited to, websites with user-submitted content including; Youtube, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter.
But being in the US, it wouldn’t affect us right?
Wrong. If such laws were to be passed in the US, it could lead to a chain reaction that could see these, plus many other US-based sites such as Google, Amazon, and Yahoo being forced to alter what we as users are able to access on these sites, even in Australia. As well as this, it’s quite likely the passing of these bills would set a precedent for other countries that may feel obliged to implement such laws into their own countries.
However, it was due to a staggering opposition to the bills, and the efforts of many websites and users, (including Wikipedia and Reddit who instigated a ‘blackout’ in protest of the bills), that SOPA and PIPA have, for now, been shelved. Nevertheless, that is not to say similar laws won’t be presented to us in the near future.
While the theories behind these censorship laws are reasonable in some aspects, the implementation of such ideas needs a far better execution than SOPA and PIPA provided. Many opposed the idea believing that it was important for the freedom of communication throughout the internet to be upheld, as once censorship is activated, it becomes a very slippery slope from which it may be unable to recover.