SOPA and PROTECT IP will censor web, warn top tech CEOs

15 Dec 2011

Google’s Sergey Brin, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, the Huffington Post’s Arriana Huffington and many others have signed a letter warning that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act will have a “chilling effect” on innovation and result in the US government having the power to censor the internet.

In an open letter, the leading executives warned of the dangers of the passing of the two acts in the US Senate. Writing on Google+ this morning, Brin said: “I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.”

In the letter, the executives said they were worried the new proposed acts, which started out as well meaning, will require web servers to monitor users and that this would have “chilling effect” on users.

They warned that the proposals would deny website owners the right to due process of law, undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the internet and give the US government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.

Don’t rush this legislation, warns Tech Freedom

On a similar vein, TechFreedom, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Job Security sent a joint letter to U.S. House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith and ranking member John Conyers, urging them not to rush deliberations on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The committee is set to hold markup on the bill today, less than three days after SOPA’s sponsors released a manager’s amendment containing major changes to the lengthy bill.

In their letter, the free market groups note that members have yet to hear testimony from experts versed in the bill’s implications for cyber security, free speech, due process, internet governance, innovation and job creation. The letter concludes:

“While we applaud the manager’s amendment proposed by chairman Smith, there simply has not been time to properly evaluate its real-world consequences. While the proposed changes would indeed improve the bill, they leave several legitimate objections unaddressed. Thus, we urge members of the committee not to report the bill to the full House until these concerns have been resolved through further hearings and a second markup. … Whatever rogue websites legislation Congress ultimately adopts will profoundly impact the development of the internet as a vehicle for innovation, expression, and democratization – for better and worse. If the public perceives this copyright legislation to be the product of a hasty and opaque process, respect for copyrights and trademarks will be diminished, not enhanced.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years