Yesterday, the Senate rejected a resolution of disapproval that would have invalidated the FCC’s net neutrality regulations. Not one member of the Democratic caucus voted with Republicans to overturn the FCC regulations.
In the grand scheme, this doesn’t do much. The White House already threatened a veto of the resolution of disapproval back in April, and for what it’s worth the FCC’s net neutrality rule is nothing to write home about. But the party discipline over these protections, over anything with the word “net neutrality” stamped on it, is something to behold. For years this wasn’t an issue on the Democratic radar screen. Now, every Democrat in the Senate voted for net neutrality rather than raise the ire of the broad coalition that has built around these issues.
That doesn’t mean that the Internet is safe from censorship or corporate degradation, however. In fact, the same Senators that upheld net neutrality yesterday are in support of a bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House, it’s known as the Protect IP Act), which would give the government power to block sites based on very amorphous copyright claims.
PROTECT IP (S. 968)/SOPA (HR. 3261) creates the first system for Internet censorship – this bill has sweeping provisions that give the government and corporations leeway and legal cover for taking down sites “by accident,” mistakenly, or for NOT doing “enough” to protect the interests of Hollywood. These bills that are moving very quickly through Congress and can pass before Christmas aim to give the US government and corporations the ability to block sites over infringing links posted by their users and give ISPs the release to take any means to block peoples’ sites, including slowing down your connection. That’s right, some say this bill is a workaround to net neutrality and is bigger than net neutrality.
This is the worst piece of Internet legislation in history – the lawmakers who have been sponsoring (Leahy, Lamar Smith, Conyers) this bill need to be shamed by the Internet community for wasting taxpayer dollars on a bill that would break the very fabric of the Internet, create an Internet blacklist, kill jobs and great startup companies, huge blogs, and social networks.
Every site with user-generated content, including this one, would be put at risk by this bill. The potential exists for the site to be held liable for content uploaded by users, which would lead to forced censorship across the board, especially in social media like Facebook or Twitter. But there is at least one champion in Congress willing to put a stop to this. That would be Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
The Oregon Democrat is threatening to filibuster the PROTECT IP Act if it reaches the Senate floor unchanged by the end of the year.
“I’ve already announced a public hold, put it in the Congressional Record and — in its current form — I will fight this every step of the way,” Wyden told POLITICO this week.
Wyden hopes that a long, drawn-out battle will dampen its chances of getting floor time as the number of working days on the congressional calendar dwindles.
In effect, Wyden would put a hold on the legislation, forcing a series of time-consuming votes to get Protect IP passed. Republicans do this routinely. But with so much on the calendar and not much time to get it all done, this could at least block the bill for the rest of the year.
It will be difficult, however. Hollywood has deep pockets and they want this bill passed to help them muscle out competition on the Internet. Activists are trying to spread the message and shed some light on the issue. Next week, on November 16, a series of online advocacy groups are putting together American Censorship Day, on the same day that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act. The plans are for an “internet-wide day of protest against censorship.” The website is here. Site logos will appear as redacted, and splash pages that look like government seizure notices will appear on websites with links to the bill and information on how to contact representatives.
The goal among those in favor of the bill remains to pass it before the end of the year. So the next couple months will be crucial.