Here in the United States we’ve always had a little bit of a problem reconciling the way we apply our ideologies at home and abroad. We have great expectations for foreign governments implementing the values we hold sacred in this nation, like democracy, self-determination and free speech. Unfortunately, our government sometimes feels less comfortable asserting these values domestically.
The most recent expression of this dialectic is in the US government’s approach is in it’s signing of a statement supporting a UN report asserting that access to the Internet is critical to individuals being able to enact their human rights. This occurs concurrently with a series of bills and industry regulations that would limit expression and free speech on the Internet domestically. The most important of these are:
1) SB 978, or the “10 Strikes” bill, which makes a minimal amount of unlicensed streaming a felony charge carrying a maximum of 5 years in prison.
2) SB 968, the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA, giving the government power to “seize” domestic sites and force search engines, ISPs, and other “information location tools” to block foreign “rogue sites” accused of copyright infringement.
3) A “3 Strikes” Policy not a law, but a dangerous industry agreement between ISPs and copyright holders to restrict the bandwidth and access of users who have been accused of infringement. The agreement would be based on 3 incidents of infringement.
Many of the provisions in SB 978, PIPA and 3 Strikes were laid out in a white paper by the Administration in which they laid out a wish-list of new Internet regulations they hoped to bring into law. From CNET:
“The White House was also instrumental in encouraging the parties to reach an agreement [3 Strikes], the sources confirmed. … His administration has lobbied Congress the past several years to pass new pro-copyright legislation while instructing federal law enforcement to make antipiracy a priority. ”
As reported by Ars Technica UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue, who published the report on humans rights and the Internet, has said that he is “deeply concerned” about attempts to centralize control of Internet. La Rue went on to say that he was alarmed by the nature of the 3 Strikes agreement in particular saying that limiting Internet access for copyright infringement is “disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
“Promoting civil liberties and Internet freedom abroad is a noble goal, but if we want to be taken seriously, we need to live by those same ideals here at home” said Demand Progress executive director David Segal. PIPA, the 10 Strikes bill, and the 3 Strikes policies will all contribute to undermining the credibility of the United States as a bastion of free expression and speech in the world. We live in an age where information is being democratized in a way never before possible, but our government’s schizophrenic policies threaten to limit the conversations and cultural innovations that this democratization makes possible.
Help us oppose these unfortunate and anti-democratic actions by our government. Visit our website and tell them that we need to demonstrate our commitment to open expression to own citizens and our neighbors around the world.