How to Wreck the Web - Protect IP Act

The internet has changed all our lives, it has made the world much smaller and enabled communication like no other technology in human history. In it's infancy the web was relatively free of censorship, we could all see the same stuff, communicate without restrictions and share ideas and thoughts without limits. This allowed a huge burst of creativity and the number of amazing resources available online grew exponentially.

Now of course many people didn't like this, people with certain political, religious or economic agendas would rather you just subscribed to their particular view of the world. There are of course obvious examples - China has it's infamous Great Firewall of China which blocks huge swathes of the internet, dictatorships like Iran and Syria block access to thousands of webs sites which encourage free speech and the exchange of ideas. Even democratic nations like Turkey block access to lots of web sites including Gay and Lesbian networking sites and forums. If a Thai citizens says something bad about the Thai Royal family online and he'll be looking at a jail sentence. Still worse there's North Korea which basically has shut down everything so that it's people can't see how much better other people are treated by their Governments.

But of course the internet has still grown, for those people in countries which filter and censor there are options like Identity Cloaker and other VPNs to bypass the often hopeless technical restrictions and surf where they please. In some places just a change of your DNS settings is enough to sidestep the blocks.  A simple knowledge of the Basics of SSL will also go a long way.

However ironically there is a much bigger threat to the internet looming and it's not driven by some mad, despotic leader who wants to control a population - no this one is driven by money and the entertainment industry.

The reason that the web has such greats sites is partly because it was allowed to develop relatively unhindered. Obviously this has had it's down side with cyber crime and paedophiles learning to exploit and utilise the network for their own means. But on the whole this unregulation has allowed fantastic sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to grow quickly into the global resources they now are. This could be about to change and it's in the form of a piece of short sighted and dangerous legislation called the Protect IP Act which is in danger of being passed in the USA.

If you haven't heard of this - then I urge you to watch this video.

Truly scary stuff and although it will no doubt make the entertainment industry richer, the end result will be handing over a powerful mechanism for the establishment to control the internet.

Who's going to invest in creating a new social networking site with the risk of expensive litigation simply if a user posts a video, link or picture that is under copyright. It's a huge hammer blow to any sort of innovation or investment to any web based business, even though it's a US law the implications will affect most of the internet.

There are many practical implications to this - almost all of them bad, but here's one for illustration.

  1. A band discovers that a popular social networking sites has links to bootleg copies of their concerts.
  2. The bands lawyers petition the Government under the bill for an injunction against the site.
  3. Government lawyers will give the internet providers 5 days to 'block access' to the website to their subscribers.

So that's all it takes for an foreign website to get filtered to the US. If it's a commercial venture the block will possibly cripple a business. The potential of abuse is of course incredible.

If you're in the US then any Film, Music or Media company has the power to decide what you have access to online.

The US is in danger of becoming a parody of everything it stands for, the Iranians are censored by a dictator, the Americans by Movie producers and rock groups! This bill is happening now!