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US Bill Creating the Great Firewall of America (theagilepanda.com)
429 points by stupandaus on Nov 15, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

Here's one form of protest I'd like to see:

Assuming Google wants to take a significant stance against this bill, they're in a unique position to raise people's awareness of its awfulness. They could put some text on the Google homepage and/or a link to a protest page informing Americans about this threat. (Google might need to set up their own page, to avoid overwhelming an external site with traffic.) Other creative possibilities come to mind:

- Changing the "I'm feeling lucky" button to "I'm feeling very unlucky" and linking to the protest page

- Posting a terrifying, yet appealing Google Doodle that links and lures users to the protest page

- Announcing and then holding a scheduled, minute-long search outage, where all search traffic is redirected to the protest page (which would include an explanation of why searches were temporarily redirected)

Technically savvy users might be aware of SOPA and the threat it poses, yet the "average" American is probably unaware of what their elected representatives are doing to their digital future. They need to know, and hold their representatives accountable.


Disclaimer: I am not an American, but feel a need to speak up, given the huge effect U.S. law has on the whole Internet.

I'd much rather see a large organized event by individual web sites than unilateral action by Google.

Not least among my reasons being that I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Google to act.

I remember a broad campaign of website blackouts, blue ribbons, etc, to protest the DMCA in 1998. Which accomplished approximatly nothing except raising general awareness I'm afraid.

Raising general awareness is an accomplishment worth pursuing.

Luckily, Silicon Valley is a much stronger lobby today.

In all of the news and outcry surrounding SOPA, this is the most puzzling thing. I would be surprised to learn that the lobby of those in support of this bill is stronger than of those against.

Unless I'm wrong about the relative strength of these opposing lobbies, it hardly makes sense that SOPA seems to have so much traction among legislators.

FYI, I've submitted these ideas to Google. I'm hoping that one way or another they'll oppose SOPA in significant ways.

I'm worried that the approach I'm seeing to stopping this bill gives the impression that it's supporters are simply "protesters" who support online piracy.

The article on agilepanda is well written but the site at http://americancensorship.org/ focuses on website blocking, jail time if you "stream a copyrighted work" and the very general threat of "Chaos for the Internet". It's the wrong approach IMO.

The decision makers, or our target market for this if you'd prefer, are congress, the senate and the president. There's an election coming up and we have real power we can wield. So here's my suggestion:

1. Make it crystal clear that replacing the DMCA with SOPA will kill many of the job creation machines coming out of Silicon Valley and the rest of the USA. It will prevent the creation of new businesses like Facebook that can only exist through user generated content and who generate billions in tax revenue and jobs for the US economy. If a representative supports this bill they are making it clear they don't support job creation in the USA.

2. Make it clear that this is not about online piracy, but about government control of a free communications medium. It is tantamount to the US government taking control of the country's newspapers and having the ability to selectively block the publication of editions they don't approve of.

3. Call your local congressman and senator and let them know that if they support SOPA, they don't support job creation in the USA and they oppose freedom of communication. Let them know two things: If they support SOPA you will not vote for them and you will encourage everyone you know to do the same. Secondly, let them know you will contact every major political donor in the area and make them aware of the representatives stance on the issue and how it endangers American business and innovation.

If we simply "protest" by shutting down our websites or sitting in the street, we risk getting lumped with the Occupy movement. However you may feel about that, what our politicians are most afraid of is losing their jobs and losing their funding. So lets hit them where it really hurts and take the power back.

Excellent comment. Any appeal to Congress that disrespects the value of copyright will not fly because, as the general public sees it, it is a serious problem when people have the value of their creative efforts diminished as they are spread across the web without compensation. The DMCA was never intended to protect infringers. It was designed to ensure that ISPs did not get caught in the cross-fire as copyright holders sought to protect their interests against those who did infringe. To do that, the ISPs had to abide by certain rules aimed at protecting copyright holders and their reward for doing this was to get "safe harbor" protection that shielded them from liability for the infringements that did occur on their sites. SOPA seeks to rip those protections away by effectively removing that shield. It also allows for what amounts to the creation of blacklists that will force search engines to ban allegedly transgressing sites from public view. All in all, then, it gives to the copyright holders (and to the Justice Department) a set of tools that will enable them to attack the websites directly for the infringements of others. In essence, this flips the DMCA on its head. Whereas DMCA nurtured the growth of the web by shielding innocent conveyers of information from liability as long as they played by the rules, SOPA (should it pass) will inhibit any such growth going forward by giving lawsuits and legal proceedings a central place in the copyright enforcement scheme across the web. This is why fledgling startups will be vulnerable to getting killed off before they can realize their potential: the copyright police will be there to shut them down before they can even develop proper systems for SOPA-style compliance. In other words, the issues here concern primarily the burden of litigation and whether, as a matter of public policy, people who have legitimate rights (copyright holders) should be given broad latitude to sue intermediate parties over what usually are infringements or whether they should be restricted in their right to impose liability on such intermediate parties, thereby giving such parties the room to breathe and to grow as companies and to further the information goals of the web itself. This is an important policy debate, and the people on the other side of it are not innately evil in arguing their case. I think they are wrong, very wrong, and that the consequences of what they are trying to do will be highly detrimental, as a matter of policy, to the future growth of the web. But it is important that the opposition to this not be centered on ad hominem attacks. That only detracts from the strength of the case to be made for internet freedom and growth and does indeed allow the opposition to dismiss bona fide complaints by casting SOPA opponents as people who are not focused rightly on the serious issues involved in this debate.

This is a great summary of the core issues with this. If you or someone else writes this up in an easy to digest fashion for laymen, I (and I'm sure others) would be happy to link to it on our websites. I'm currently linking here: http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/ , but if that can be improved upon with less of an occupy-sounding slant, I'd love to support it.

Wall of text... could you try adding paragraph breaks?

EFF's description of the problems of this bill avoids anything to do with piracy: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/11/hollywood-new-war-on-s... (edit: except in the title!)

This open letter to congress, cosigned by Paul Vixie, Jim Gettys, Gene Spafford, Dan Kaminsky, David Ulevitch, John Gilmore, and many other big names, also seems to be striking the right note. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/09/open-letter

The EFF "hollywood" page has a link to contact congress:


Edit: I posted a direct link to the page: http://news.ycombinator.com/newest

I've added this link to the post now. Thanks.

> 1. Make it crystal clear that replacing the DMCA with SOPA will kill many of the job creation machines coming out of Silicon Valley and the rest of the USA.

Silicon Valley hasn't been doing all that good in creating jobs this century.


"But between 2000 and 2008, as Chart 3 indicates, California’s two big metro areas produced fewer than 70,000 new jobs - a nearly 95 percent drop and a mere 6 percent of job creation in the state."

... and here's the congressional switchboard number:

(202) 224-3121,

I am very pessimistic, because it seems governments just won't stop trying to pass such laws (the same thing is going on in Germany where I live). If this time it fails, they will just try again, until eventually they succeed.

In Germany the law is pushed under the pretense of fighting child pornography. Some people who are against it are now being described in media as people who are against fighting child pornography - even by tech magazines that should have a better understanding.

I am very pessimistic, because it seems governments just won't stop trying to pass such laws

And by definition, they have deeper pockets than us -- they can afford to push it farther than we can, because in the end, they control the guys with the guns who can come and take everything away from us.

A few years back I was involved in a local controversy. The local authorities made three tries to pass a referendum, being rejected each time. Finally, on the fourth try, they were victorious. There was no difference between what was proposed in #3 and #4, except:

1. They changed voting hours, so that polls were only open in the afternoon; and

2. They sent postcards to the entire town (paid for by us, of course) containing information that was objectively false. [1]


[1] Not relevant to this discussion, but the referendum was for school construction. The proposal contained a bunch of frills such as expanding the cafeteria. The false mailing I mentioned explicitly stated that the proposal was for classroom space only, which was patently false. But the mailing was timed to arrive the afternoon before the vote, when it was too late to do anything about it. And they knew we couldn't afford a lawyer, and the amount that could be done ex post facto was limited anyway. No one ever held them to account.

Let's be honest, the drivers behind this are the content companies and various individual legislators. They're the ones who keep pushing it every time it fails. "Government" as it pertains to legislation is just a collection of 535 individuals (adjust figure for your nationality). Smoothing that all into a single proper noun will hamper understanding of what's actually going on.

"Government" as it pertains to legislation is just a collection of 535 individuals (adjust figure for your nationality). Smoothing that all into a single proper noun will hamper understanding of what's actually going on.

That's true in one sense. However, pretending that everything would work out fine were it not for a few bad apples will certainly hamper attempts to keep the system running properly.

It would be far better to acknowledge that much of the behavior of a democracy results from Public Choice Theory, and so it's going to work out this way even if your favored politicians are lucky enough to win the election. With that out of the way, we can start to shore up the places where the system is vulnerable to malfeasance.

Yeah, I agree actually, I wasn't claiming it's "just a few bad apples" when we just had a throw out the bums election and the new bums are just as welcoming to anyone with a check to sign. IMO the bad apples here are the lobbyists who seem to be a permanent fixture.

So, 2 steps:

1) Call congressmen to directly remedy problem in this particular case (I haven't done this but should, they do listen).

2) Address the problem of lobbying generally, that's a bigger discussion and every idea I have to fix it could have unintended consequences.

It sounds like you're describing local politics in general. Something similar happened in a city in which I used to live. The mayor and part of the city council wanted to change the city's liquor laws (not a bad thing in itself), but they used misleading information in the voter information brief to do so. Their information brief suggested that there was no previous limit on e.g. distance between bars and elementary schools, when in fact their ordinance reduced an existing minimum distance.

There always seems to be a pretense for these kinds of laws. And the internet is always the scapegoat. You never hear of politicians wanting to set up permanent police checks on the highway because criminals use the highways. Or set up checks to verify lawful use of electricity from the electrical grid because someone might be using it in an unlawful activity. The public wouldn't stand for that. And they shouldn't stand for this.

I was watching DC news last night and it was a story about the guy who shot at the White House last week. They went on about where the guy was from, possible motives, etc. The story ended with "police search the DC site of Occupy Wall Street for the gunman and didn't find him." Wow, so Occupy Wall Street is for shooting at the White House/killing the president?

The media is GREAT at shaping perspective.

Yes, but we run the internet. Many of us here at HN control vast amounts of web realestate. Every time they push for censorship push back, educate your users, show them on your site an example of what can happen.

It's great to see the EFF, the Free Software Foundation, and other big freedom fighters opposing this bill. (See http://americancensorship.org/ ).

But are any of the big corporations fighting it? Google / YouTube? Microsoft? Apple? Come on guys! Step up! (or am I just missing their statements on this bad bill?)

I think a "Stop Censorship" black banner across the Google logo tomorrow would go a long way toward defeating this.

Sad testament to the state of the policy making process in this country that the most we can hope for to stop one terrible piece of legislation advanced by corporations to further theirs interests is for another set of corporations to oppose it to further their diverging interests.

Is it really sad? Corporations wield a lot of power; that's why we built them. What would be sad is if they fail to stand up for our interests.

And then we might have to do something about it.

It is. Corporations exist for the purpose of maximizing their own profits. Government policy making should be about maximizing the people's well being. These might sometimes be related ends, but they're far from being the same thing.


No, formally speaking we have fascism in the US (from fasces, bundle of ax or spear handles), where we have the government and large corporations (think Goldman Sachs) working hand-in-glove.

Another name might be corporate welfarism.

They all add up to the same thing: elites running the country as their private playground.

Most of the Tea Party and Occupy * folks have absolutely no idea what's going on, nor any idea of how to fix it, but they do know something's horribly wrong, and are taking to the streets to demonstrate at least that fact.

If you want to learn more, read http://lewrockwell.com/ over a period of months--some of the best libertarian / Austrian school writers on the planet, and others with a similar bent.

So, when, "formally speaking" did the U.S. become a fascist state, in your opinion? No need to name the day, a rough decade span would be fine.

I think it's the 60s, as the drumbeat of Vietnam was approaching, sparked by the assassination of both Kennedy brothers. The so-called End of Innocence for America, the Killing of Camelot. It's when we learned that dissent on even the highest pulpit will be silenced.

We were warned before then by Eisenhower in his final Presidential address, but the tail end of the 60s was likely when Americans started to realize that we could not stop the rush. Endless money and inscrutable power will be forever intertwined, from the Medici's silent rule of Italy to now, where a few million dollars donated to the policeman's union by JP Morgan can buy the emptying of Zuccotti park and put the kibosh on the months-long Occupy movement.

where a few million dollars donated to the policeman's union by Goldman Sachs can buy the emptying of Zuccotti park

It's certainly not hard to imagine this (all you need are a few Valchek characters at some important desks), but do you have a citation for this?

While the connection between the "bribe" and the deed are speculation at best, there is no doubt that bankers made the donation and announced just a month into OWS. It was actually JP Morgan Chase that donated 4.6 million[1] (I've amended my comment to reflect that).


Not sure about the GS connection, but this page went up at the beginning of October http://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/Home/article/ny-13.ht...

A couple background pieces on the increasing influence of money in politics and the disconnect between policy and the social good:



These focus on the Republican party but much of the same can be said of the Democrats as well.

I trace it to WWII, actually. The war effort meant giving a lot of corporations a lot of help. Afterwards, that could never stop.

From http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s968/money

Specific orgs supporting the bill: Microsoft, CBS, MLB, NBA, NFL, Disney, Bose, Nike, etc, etc.

Specific orgs opposed to the bill: Google, Yahoo, VISA, AmEx, and some foundations, groups, non-profits...but that's it.

.. why is Microsoft supporting this bill...?

They stand to gain more from IP enforcement than lose to the false positives and business opportunities.

Also, perhaps more cynically, it stands to do very serious harm to Google.

I don't get why Pfizer, Adidas etc are supporting this. What do they gain out of this?

Counterfeits, possibly? I believe a lot of counterfeits are sold online and those companies might be interested in trying to get rid of those.

My take is that SOPA is about a great deal more than digital goods. The global economy has enormous minor/innocent IP infringement as well as blatant copying. Companies want to circumvent tradition legal approaches to protecting their IP and it looks like they may get it.

Grey market goods? Currently these big companies fight a losing battle trying to secure their distribution to only authorised dealers. I would assume this bill would make it a lot easier for them to get sites they don't want trading their goods shut down.

Google is fighting it. It threatens both Youtube and Google search. I haven't seen them fighting it in public, though. But they should fight it openly and try to gather more support.

There are reports of Google and Yahoo leaving or threatening to leave the US Chamber of Commerce (a private lobbying organization, btw) because of its stance on certain legislation:



Interesting progression of events in the last 15 years, given that anti-piracy legislation was originally written to protect software companies.

It's intensely disappointing to see politics conforming to its stereotype, and making short-sighted decisions about this. It's wonderful to see calls across the net, led by the EFF and others, to stop this craziness.

That said - I feel like we've been here before. Bills that blindly support control of ideas and technologies seem to waft their way into Washington on a regular basis, and each time we're angry and afraid and annoyed.

What can we do to stop this happening again?

In all honestly, it would be by removing virtually all business interests from politics. No corporate donations, no PAC's, extremely reduced effectiveness of lobbyists, etc...

Good luck getting politicians to bite the hand that feeds them.

I know everyone here is busy, but call your Representatives on the phone. http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Protesting is fine. Donating money to the EFF is fine. But truly angry phone calls by constituents are extremely powerful.

You know, they are trying to pass the same bill in France at the same time. I wouldn't doubt other countries are concerned as well.

Pretty much a censorship worldwide effort going on.

Just a friendly reminder to donate to the EFF:


I'm not against trying to eliminate piracy, but I don't understand how any politicians can back this with a clear conscience. A bill that does things without having to be found guilty is an obvious anti-constitutional bill and should be destroyed immediately. We are innocent until proven guilty in this country, or so we are led to believe.

Google didn't help China censor the internet (as stated in the 1st paragraph). It makes it very hard to read the rest of the article after seeing this. In fact, Google pulled its services out of China because it wouldn't succumb to censorship requests. Google this --> "google pulls out of china"

The article linked was from 2005. They actively helped China censor the Chinese web prior to 2010. I was actually over there prior to, during, and after they pulled out. Prior to 2010, Google operated google.cn as a filtered web search, similar to Baidu now.

Okay, that makes more sense. Google did try and play ball for a little while...

> On October 26, 2011, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) was introduced in the House of Representatives...

Mmm, no. That may be the ultimate result (or maybe privacy died long ago) but SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, not Privacy...

Thanks for catching that. Fixed now.

Wow. I did not expect this blog post to blow up like this. I wish it was under less auspicious circumstances.

On a slightly related note, does anyone know how to fix the e-mail subscription widget in WordPress? I'm getting complaints that it is giving 'invalid e-mail' errors when people are adding valid e-mails.

Auspicious is good (roughly: causing hope, or offering opportunity).

You are indeed correct. I was searching for inauspicious. Hah.

I think the only way how this can be fixed it that they pass SOPA since western democracies seems to be broken beyond repair.

This bill will severely affect the very last growth engine in the US (that is internet) and the US (and the rest of the world) will sunk into even deeper recession. In other words, this bill will slow down or even prevent "paradigm shift in the economy" which is needed to start recovery of the global economy.

And this prolonged deep recession will fuel occupy WallStreet and similar movements and eventually, after a lot bad things (wars, riots, etc.), the new version of democracy will arise: the democracy were the constituents are people and not corporations.

This is my pessimistic view but history seems to be on my side :(

why not make a "one vote, one cause, one day" type of widget that can be easily added to any website( configurable to square, horizontal rectangle, vertical rectangle, etc...). Similar to the HN forum, you can create a 'cause' thread, design a logo/message for that cause, and the cause can be voted on. The highest ranked cause of that particular day is displayed for 24 hours, then reset back to 0 votes to even the playing field for other causes. Is anyone else starting to see my vision for this? Does this already exist?

A lot of great comments. No action. When it comes to issues of a vote (like this), im sorry to report - we've lost our say in the matter.

Some would say "that's why we elect people, to do this for us" don't you get it? Politicians aren't out to help you. They have their own agenda. Unless your padding their campaign coiffer, your falling on def ears.

The fundamental problem is that this is a part of a larger shift towards what is IMO an Unconstitutional government of prosecutors instead of a government of laws. These include mandatory sentencing guidelines, reductions in the discretion judges have in other areas, and the like. The idea is that the powers get shifted gradually onto prosecutors so they can go after bad guys, but that means eventually all of us can be prosecuted too.

In addition to the real problems with this act, try reading "Three Felonies A Day" by Harvey Silverglate (EFF and ACLU veterine, co-founder of FIRE)

> SOPA puts in provisions that allows the US to control the internet the same way that the PRC does in China.

I'm against SOPA, but the idea that it would permit the U.S. government, should it so desire, to set up Chinese-style censorship of the internet is nonsense on stilts. You can take any power of the government and theorize about what could happen if it ran unchecked: "What if they define talking about Occupy Wall Street to be piracy‽" "What if President Obama declared you an enemy combatant‽"

Our laws don't work that way. For one, when it ends up in the courts, they're going to read it as narrowly as needed to accomplish its purpose (obviously, in this case, copyright enforcement). If the law is stupidly written in such an over-broad way that it can't be balanced against other rights and interests, it will be thrown out. For another, we don't live in a one-party autocracy: We have deep cultural norms favoring rights and freedoms. That permeates not just the electorate, but the people elected and appointed to execute the laws. Obviously we disagree from time to time about the trade-offs to be made, but those very disagreements make it harder for some rogue executive to go off the rails; there's always someone else ready to take his place after the next election.

This is a long way of saying that hyperbole like this is never going to win you a policy argument.

I wasn't intending to speak in hyperbole, although I understand that I may have come across that way. I tried not to dive into too technical of stuff, but provisions to allow control of DNS servers is not something to be taken lightly. In addition, the SOPA model puts the burden of proof on the accused party and allows the alleged infringed rightsholder to suspend their services immediately upon making a claim.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that this is a huge shift in the balance of power which makes it end up sounding like hyperbole.

SOPA can say you have to stand on one leg and recite the pledge of allegiance backwards, but courts will have the final say on what the allowable scope of the law is. The whole point of having an independent judicial branch is that it provides us with a fine-grained mechanism for watering down stupid or even malicious overreach on the part of the legislative or executive branches.

All that is fine, but the Chinese analogy is inapt.

Yeah. I guess in the end I am still speaking in hyperbole whenever I compare it to the Chinese situation. Unfortunately, I feel like the non-technical populace simply won't understand it any other way. There are no comparable systems. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that we have at this time the luxury of broaching this subject lightly. I tried to avoid being heavy-handed about it as much as possible, but I don't know how else to approach it.

It seems that what happened to wikileaks has become a blue print on how to deal with dissent. The demos allowed such monopolistic organisations such as visa and mastercard and the demos allowed the rest of what happened to wikileaks. We, the people, are to be blamed for not being willing to fight to retain our powers.

It is truly frightening to see how far-reaching authoritarian legislation like this can get fast-tracked into law. The same thing happened with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Patriot Act, and the Department of Homeland Security.

I can confidently predict this legislation will not be stopped.

Enter stage right the mellinum of the copyproof bit. Delete those words citizen before I taze you.

So people start speaking in code.

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