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The 19 Senators Who Voted To Censor The Internet (techdirt.com)
298 points by yanw on Nov 18, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments



The bill in question is COICA – "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act"

EFF has this to say: The main mechanism of the bill is to interfere with the Internet's domain name system (DNS), which translates names like "www.eff.org" or "www.nytimes.com" into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. The bill creates a blacklist of censored domains; the Attorney General can ask a court to place any website on the blacklist if infringement is "central" to the purpose of the site.

They go on to list sites which might be affected, including HN's own little darling, Dropbox.


I'm shocked and ashamed that California's own Feinstein appears on this list.


Feinstein has long been known as a censor, an opponent of civil rights and human rights, an open shill for industry, an advocate of unnecessary war, a proponent of police and government against the Bill of Rights and privacy, and generally opposed to the individual or small business whenever government and powerful institutions can be privileged instead.

I wonder often why California insists on keeping her. She almost always votes right on the environment and reproductive rights, I guess. You folks could do a lot better, though.


Let's be clear which industry though, because clearly Internet services are now an industry in themselves.


Why are you shocked? The entertainment industry is centered in Los Angeles.


Maybe you should read up on her, including who her husband has been since 1980. Perhaps then you would be less shocked - hint: hubby does not divide his time between helping widows and orphans, and petting puppies and kittens...


Not only that, but Feinstein is ostensibly the Senator of Silicon Valley, and should know better.


She's also the Senator of Hollywood, though, and traditionally the LA-based media industry has had more clout in California politics than the Bay-Area-based tech industry has.


We should change this.


Technically true, but Feinstein is from NorCal (San Francisco) Boxer is from SoCal (near Riverside). In a big state like CA, there's a bit of an unofficial division of loyalties.


Yes, but it's unofficial enough that a little bit of money can easily reverse it. In practice, state officials will act like the unions' whores and national officials will be cozy with whoever chose to spend time and money on them.


Especially since that state is particularly known for its hostility towards the content industry.


I'm shocked and ashamed that anyone would be shocked and ashamed at Feinstein's support of this. Have you been paying attention?


I'm shocked and ashamed that Russ Feingold appears on this list. I thought him to be an upstanding senator until now.


I hoped he might choose to go out with some of the integrity he showed in his best moments. Feingold left me with mixed feelings but he was always his own man.


Same goes for Sheldon Whitehouse. That was a real disappointment.


Yeah, amazing to see the lone vote against the Patriot Act supporting this crap bill.



Keep in mind a committee vote is just that, a vote in committee to move the bill along.

Sometimes a legislator will like the overall bill but see some problems and be assured by the patron that they can come to an agreement. Sometimes they absolutely hate the bill and know it will die, but they'll move it along just to get the opposing party on record so they can embarrass them in commercials. Sometimes they just move it along in because they have a deal with the patron. It's all politics as they say.


California senator Dianne Feinstein, who appears on this list, also sponsored Consume But Don't Try Programming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Broadband_and_Digital_...) back in the day.

As long as she's on the ballot, I'll be voting for her Republican opponent, however loathsome.


I am almost in the same boat. But this time around the Republicans ran Carly Fiorina.

I'm sorry, but if you're going to run a businesswoman on her record, don't run one who did that much damage to her company (HP), who got fired by her board, and who was universally agreed to be so bad that the stock shot up on the news that she was finally gone. As much as I disliked Boxer, I didn't want to find out the hard way how much worse Fiorina could be if she was given access to power (again).


To steal a bit from Jack Black and make it my own:

Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym. Those who can't teach gym go into politics.


I heard it this way:

If you can't do, teach,

If you can't teach, administrate,

If you can't administrate, go into politics,

If you can't get elected, go to work for the government.


What makes you think her generic unnamed Republican opponent wouldn't vote the same way?


That's actually besides the point. Once the seat trades parties a few times, the occupant will figure out that if they want to be reelected they have to listen to their constituents. Or so the theory goes.


What? There’s no way that this particular issue is near-and-dear to enough people that it will cause anything more than a blip in voter turnout or choices. If you want to make a difference, go do some real organizing and build some kind of momentum up behind your position. Complaining in an online discussion and declaring you’ll cast your individual ballot for the out-of-power candidate so long as both parties disagree with you is a complete waste of your indignation, your time, and your vote..... of course, it’s a lot easier than doing the real work that organizing requires.


I was merely explaining why someone may decide to vote against someone, even if the person they vote for is no better. I reserve my indignation for shit that matters, like variable names.


My god that has to be one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. Seems Leahy was at the helm of that disaster, too.


Actually, Leahy killed CBDTP:

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had stated that he could "not support" the proposed legislation and, as chairman, intended to block consideration of the controversial bill. This essentially killed the bill in 2002.


Indeed, thanks! Reading comprehension fail.


I'm extremely surprised to see Franken on this list. Wasn't he outspoken against this sort of thing?



More evidence that "net neutrality", like "reform", is a fill-in-the-blank phrase meaning whatever one thinks it means. In this way listeners to a politician speaking automatically fill in the blank with whatever they personally would support. That the actual legislation the politician implements might be anathema to the ostensible supporters is a humorous side-effect.


Well, originally (that is, somewhere before the term Net Neutrality was coined & lobbyists were hired), there was this plan by the big telecoms that they had recently announced.

They were going to slow down internet traffic to sites, especially big ones like Google, unless those people gave them money. There was no talk about infrastructure, just a naked money grab, and this was in a speech to others in the telecom industry that I don't think they expected so many people to hear about. After that, there was mass outrage from everyone from the ACLU to the Christian Coalition. Everyone was united: this was naked extortion.

Then people banded together and started calling it "Net Neutrality." And the lobbyists were hired.

The unraveling began when they started questioning what people would do about it. The debate changed from "this is horrible! how can the telcos do that!" to "there needs to be a law!" vs. "we can't trust the government to regulate the internet!"

Sadly, I think both positions are correct, but for different reasons. But by creating a rift and pitting people--people who were all outraged by this horrible plan--they've kept us from doing much of anything at all to stop them. The free market won't do much good against a natural monopoly, but we really, truly cannot trust the government with too much power.

So, in spite of the fact that pretty much everyone was outraged by these plans for middlemen to hobble our internet connections, we've been pitted against each other by lobbyists.

Lovely, huh?


Pretty standard -- just throw enough dirt into the air, everyone throws up their hands, and the media "reports the controversy".


He is a supporter of net neutrality but is on record as saying ISPs should combat copyright infringement. When the question of how both could be accomplished arises he admits to being complete ignorant of how technology works.


What does this bill have in common with net neutrality? More government control of what is otherwise private property. It's consistent to support both.


Yes I thought about this more after I posted my comment and realized that is is reasonable to be a supporter of both. It did come as a bit of a surprise when I had heard Al Franken voted for this bill since he was so public about his views on net neutrality.


No, he is always for big media and apparently he convinced MN's other Senator to be a sponsor.


Al Franken is also a big TSA supporter.

“You’re doing a fabulous job and you ought to be supported,” the Minnesota Democrat told a gathering of about 25 transportation security officers (TSOs) and representatives of their union, Local 899 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

http://blog.alfranken.com/2010/02/18/workday-minnesota-tsa-o...


I'm not. Power is a seductive mistress.


I emailed my Senators (native Minnesotan). If I get anything other than an automated response I'll be sure to edit and include it.

I'm really dismayed that Franken supported this, especially considering his stance on net neutrality.

We might need 10 or 20 more Jammie Thomas-Rassets to get enough of a popular response from citizens to really change our Senators minds.

Here's hoping...


I worked on the Google Twin Ports initiative in Duluth and am also shocked that Al is on this list. He participated in a the production of a video in support: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2i_piWVXuc

Please let me know what you hear back. If we need to raise hell about this issue I'm in and know a number of others in MN that will help...


Response from Al:

November 24, 2010

Dear Steve,

Thank you for contacting me about the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I believe that intellectual property enforcement is extremely important. We must protect American jobs from piracy, which has become rampant on the Internet. We don't tolerate shoplifters in stores, and we should not tolerate them online.

COICA would give the Department of Justice an expedited process for cracking down on websites whose primary purpose is to sell pirated goods. Right now, if a company finds that its products are being pirated or counterfeited online, its only recourse is to sue in civil court, a process that can take years, during which time the offending website continues to do harm. Under COICA, the Justice Department gains jurisdiction over off-shore infringers--something that is extremely difficult under current law--and can use expedited legal procedures to stop the worst of these offenders.

I was initially wary of COICA, but there have been some important improvements that have addressed my concerns. The most controversial provision of this bill, sometimes called the "Internet Blacklist," originally directed the Justice Department to publish a list of offending websites and encouraged Internet service providers (ISPs) and other relevant parties to shut down the listed websites without a judicial process. This provision was clearly wrong, and I was glad to see it removed prior to the bill's consideration. I also worked with Chairman Leahy to narrow the definition of an infringing site to include only sites where copyright infringement is "the central purpose" of the site, not sites which may be engaged in copyright infringement incidentally but are also devoted to other purposes.

This bill has also been amended to protect net neutrality. In the initial version of the bill, ISPs were given legal immunity to voluntarily enforce the bill's provisions and block access to websites. This provision has been removed. As it currently stands, this bill won't allow a fast lane and a slow lane of Internet traffic. It will not affect net neutrality, which has always been about protecting users' access to legal content.

It is unlikely that this bill will come to the floor of the Senate before the end of the year. This means that it must pass through the legislative process again in the next Congress. I look forward to working with Chairman Leahy to further improve the bill next year.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please don't hesitate to contact me again on this or any other issue that may be important to you.

Sincerely,

Al Franken

United States Senator


Piracy is nowhere near equal to shoplifting.

Also, I'm curious how the DoD is going to enforce US law on non-US soil.


If I hold several billion (or whatever absurdly high amount you want) dollars in front of your face, you'd vote against your beliefs as well.


This assumes that politicians actually have beliefs. While I'm sure that some do, I'm also sure that some of them -- especially after years of being bribed with money -- vote in ways that're indistinguishable from how they would vote if they were trying to maximise their wealth and power.


I agree with you, but I want to add a tempering thought: in many cases (not all, but probably most), voting to "maximize their wealth and power" ends up looking a whole lot like voting to do what their constituents want. You can get away with doing the will of the lobbyists against the will of your constituents in cases that don't garner much attention, or that your constituents are indifferent to, but if it's an issue your constituents care about, all of the special interest money in the world isn't going to save you from their wrath at the ballot box.

When my cynicism starts to get the better of me, this is the thought that keeps me sane: whether by accident or design, the system we have keeps naked self-interest somewhat in check by correlating (at least moderately) the fortunes of the representative to the desires of the people.


It was 800000$ that Franken got from media companies, so not even one single billion. What are you implying!

Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N0002... via: http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/e8bh8/guys_this_...


Try me.


Try me too.... I will take the billions.


Are you running for office?


With your contribution to my campaign fund...


Very interesting.

Wonder what all of these senators have in common? It doesn't look like party, section of the country, or left-right leanings.

Usually when you get a wide dispersed group like this, the next thing to do is look for businesses and organizations (either inside the senator's state or not) that use money and votes to heavily lobby. Wonder who would lobby for this?

Just thinking aloud. I don't mean this to be a slam of the senators -- they're incompetent enough without my slamming them -- just trying to figure out if there is a commonality.


They are the current members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov/about/members.cfm

They don't really have anything else in common other than their committee membership.


Got it. I missed the judiciary tie-in.

Then I think a much better headline would be "Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Votes In Favor Of Internet Censorship Bill" since the unanimous nature of the vote is the real story here.

Very strange that there were no dissenters. Anybody have a line into what sort of testimony the committee heard? Either an extremely persuasive case was made or there is some other part of this story that we are missing.


> or there is some other part of this story that we are missing.

"Campaign Contributions" and access to a resort in the Bahamas.


If this does pass, couldn't we just set up alternate DNS servers which include the blacklisted domains?


It would be easy enough to get around a DNS ban. Especially since they can't stop people from using whatever name server they choose or mapping IPs locally themselves.


While that is technically true, to 99% of the population, that is deep magic. They'd find a way to charge you for hacking for changing your own hosts file.


Yeah, is there any technical information on how this would be done yet? Seems like I could just use DNS servers from another country if worse came to worst.


Several disappointments, including in my state. I guess it's time to break out the letter writing.

Of course, Democrats (of whom I note several prominent figures) have long been whores to big media.


I honestly do not understand people who cite the first amendment to the constitution as reasoning, but think the second amendment is antiquated.

(Note: They don't mention the second amendment in this article, I'm merely referring to the fact that I don't hear uproars like this when it is violated.)


I honestly do not understand why people bring up completely tangental issues while discussing politics.

(Note: They usually don't mean to detract from the topic being discussed, but that is without fail what happens when they derail the conversation.)


The linked article is a bit biased.

Although I'm still vehemently against the item in question, the real bill in question is the "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-20023238-38.html?tag=cnetR...) which involves with maintaining a blacklist for domains associated with piracy. Although this is still clearly censorship, it isn't what the title led me to believe (across the board censorship like China).

Still, Dianne Feinstein just lost my vote for the coming election :(.


I don't think there's ever been a blacklist that wasn't abused and if there is, I haven't even heard of it. For reference, look to the Australian blacklist, wherein they banned all sorts of sites that had nothing to do with the alleged purpose of the blacklist.

By all rights, this should be stricken down as being in conflict with the 1st Amendment, but I don't know if the current crop of Supreme Court Justices would be amenable to that or not.


I'm gonna start doing stuff to prevent these 19 people from being elected. For a start, I'm gonna make a website, I'm a coder, any designers here who'd be interested in making a site dissing these 19?


I'm in. Send me an email at no.no.I.am.Spartacus[[at]]gmail[[dot]]com.


The fact that numerous law professors were rebuffed speaks to the growing anti-intellectual sentiment at the highest reaches of this nation.


Extra Credit: Why aren't the senators' party affiliations listed?


Because it doesn't matter. Quite often, those parties are two sides of the same coin.

If they didn't list party affiliation on ballots, people would instead vote based on what? The names they like most? That's about how informed some voters are, unfortunately. It takes effort to get informed, and the entities that should inform them, often fail to do so.


(D)s, (R)s, and other letters in parentheses next to names are the sort of things that influence how people vote, and in articles like this, they affect future votes.

That said, it is somewhat sad that the informed citizen is a more rare voter than they used to be. The ballot in my state was so long that I had to make a cheat sheet to avoid having to memorize all of the names. I suspect that for non-partisan offices, a lot of people did just vote for names they like. If elections weren't so costly, it might be objectively better to hold local, state, and federal elections on different days, so that people who show up to vote for a president or a governor don't just mark the rest of their ballot without knowing who they're voting for.

These are all senators, though, so it can be assumed that they were mostly elected by people who at least had heard of them.


> If they didn't list party affiliation on ballots, people would instead vote based on what?

Honestly, that's the best idea I've heard in a long time.


What better way is there to drive that point home than to show that people in both parties committed this particular wrong?


Why couldn't a website just advertise their IP address? If it's just blocking DNS, there's nothing stopping people from going to the website directly via IP. If this does pass, it seems to me that sites like thepiratebay.org would just advertise their public IP so you could easily google it and find an alternate link to it. The only issue would be if they had to move servers, of course.

As someone else posted in another article, there are plenty of ways around this law that it will have very little impact.


Would this system block websites at the IP level or at the DNS level?

Doing it at the DNS level would mean you could roll your own DNS or use a non-US DNS provider.

Doing it at the IP level would mean the ISP reverse-lookups IP addresses back into domain names and checking against a list of banned addresses. This one could only be bypassed through proxies.


Bills like this allow for the technology to be put in place for broader censorship. Even though in theory protecting copywrite is good, it's also very scary to think the government has a big large red button to block any website they want, maybe even without oversite.


maybe its about time to start boycotting the businesses that resides in the states where these senators are elected to represent. After all, all these senators are doing is representing the will of their constituents. Their constituents want to censor the internet and we should boycott them. I can't vote against any of these senators because my state wasn't a supporter of censoring the internet, but I can vote with my wallet.


I'd like to take this space to apologize on behalf of my state, Wisconsin. Can't believe my beloved Feingold voted for this :(


AL FUCKING FRANKIN SIGNED THAT??????


I really gotta ask, why are you surprised? He is very, very friendly with big media. He even got the other MN Senator in on that one. Do we really expect him to vote against his friends?


Hey. He's Al Franken...and you're not.


Yes. Yes, he did.


Would a website dedicated to providing IP addresses to websites whose domains were seized be seized?

Just have a directory on an IP-address-accessed server and you've circumscribed the law.

Nevertheless, this law is farking redonkulous. Aren't there already processes for removing illegal content from websites? Surely shutting down domains isn't the most effective way.

There must be some alternative, nefarious motive for this legislation, and I will tell all my friends who in my state voted for this joke of a bill.


A web registry of seized domains seems kind of pointless when it's really easy to set up guerilla DNS servers that provide the information far more efficiently to clients.

I'm not sure of their current status, but AlterNIC and OpenNIC are/were two major non-official name registries.

Then there's .onion and other darknets to consider.

This battle is far from over; we're just seeing the first few open skirmishes at this point. If something this draconian came into law and brought down sites of any major popularity, I wouldn't be surprised to see either alternative DNS infrastructures or even a new torrent-like protocol to provide censor-proof DNS-like services crop up to totally disrupt such stupidity.


Or we could all just use international proxies and/or TOR.




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