The technology industry is upset over a bill that would muck up the whole Internet just to keep people from illegally downloading copyrighted stuff like movies. But the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) is not the only dumb idea politicians have had about technology.
It’s not even the only dumb tech bill they’ve introduced in 2011.
Our current Congress has written tech legislation that would let the government ignore all privacy laws, would force your local coffee shop to spy on you while you surfed the Web, and would crush one its own departments, the Federal Communications Commission, because some members of Congress didn’t like its stance on a particular issue.
The bill’s stated goal: To prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property, and for other purposes.
Why it’s stupid: The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PIPA) is the Senate’s version of the SOPA bill, with all the same crappy implications to the Internet. Introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, PIPA and SOPA want to mess with the Internet’s Domain Name System in order to stop people from selling illegal goods or pirated materials.
DNS is the system that takes the words you type into your browser and translates them to the numbers that servers worldwide use to identify specific Web pages. (For instance when you type www.businessinsider.com, DNS servers translate that to 22.214.171.124 as if you typed 126.96.36.199 into your browser directly.)
There are so many reasons why tampering with DNS is stupid, we won’t go into them all again, now. But let’s just say that the people that invented the Internet think this bill is insane. It takes away a free and open Internet and makes the U.S. behave like China, Malaysia, and Iran. Not good.
The bill’s stated goal: To prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet.
Why this is stupid: Sounds great, right – keep the government’s hands off the Internet? But that’s not really what this bill is about. The bill, introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, is an attempt to stop the FCC from executing on its “Net Neutrality” rules. It’s true that those rules are uncomfortably vague in spots. But the FCC’s goal is to stop Internet service providers from doing sneaky things like throttling or blocking access to the Internet as a way to hurt their competitors. The rules are trying to keep the Internet free and open.
This bill had a lot of steam in January, shortly after the FCC rules were passed, picking up 88 co-sponsors among Republicans in the house. It has been stuck in committee since February.
The American Association of Libraries opposes this bill.
The bill’s stated goal: To prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from regulating information services or Internet access services absent a market failure, and for other purposes.
Why this is stupid: Yup, it is another attempt to stop the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. It was also a waste of time. Rep. Cliff Stearns introduced it the same day as the Internet Freedom Act.
Fortunately, this bill hasn’t gotten anywhere – it’s not even sitting in committee.
Technical project manager at Futurniture. General interest in Internet, communication and the concept of open source.