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SOPA, and why you should be concerned.

Hey all, I meant to do a video skit regarding SOPA, but I'm afraid I've been more than a little sick lately, so that's a no go.

If you've a frequent internet browser, I'd be shocked if you haven't heard of this bill. SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) is essentially a government attempt to police the internet. So lets say that a site was accused of hosting pirated material. Under SOPA, the government would have the power to do a number of things
1: Blacklist the site from search engines, meaning they could not show up on a Google search.
2: Force internet providers to block those websites from their clients.
3: Force advertisers to pull financial support from the site.
4: Imprison the one running the site for up to five years.

Now the first and foremost problem with the US government policing the internet is the whole "world wide" part of the web. Obviously, we don't have the authority to imprison Koreans for pirating our material, nor the authority to force foreign companies to withdraw advertising. Trying to impose such power on the world would be most unwise. Instead, under SOPA, the government would block the sight from search engines and providers. The problem is that if said sight's traffic was heavily reliant on American viewers, they could simply make a minor change to the name of the site, and poof, they're back online, and all the work has been a waste of time and resources. I guarantee that a person can come up with domain names faster than the government can find and block their sites.

So that just makes the bill ineffectual, but is it actually harmful? Well, let's look at who it would actually hurt. Two groups stand to lose the absolute most: user generated content sites, and online reviewers. Youtube, for instance, cannot possibly monitor everything being posted by its users, but a complaint of copyright infringement on one of their videos could be enough to take down the site. Combine that with the incredibly vague wording of the bill and the pitiful amount of time that the site is given to refute the claims, and what we have is nothing short of the death of the internet as we know it. Youtube would certainly be slowly killed by legal battles, as would Tumblr, Reddit, LiveJournal, ThatGuyWiththeGlasses, Escapist Magazine, and so many others whose existence is built on either user generated content or reviews.

There is also the fact that the internet is, without a doubt, the fastest growing industry on the planet, with an ever growing number of people making a living off of running popular sites. With a global economy in such turmoil, imposing such legislation on the web cannot be a good idea.

"But Mike," you say, "I don't make a living on the internet, and I'm not on it all that much. Why should I care?" One word: censorship. The internet is the epitome of free speech, and connects us to not only the ideas of our neighbors, but the ideas of people around the world. Giving the government the ability to censor what they say is infringing copyright is introducing unheard of powers. Blocking you from accessing said material is nothing short of a massive blow to your first amendment rights.

And please, don't take my word for any of this. Look it up yourself, do your own research. Educate yourself on the matter, and then speak what you think is right. Thanks for reading.