In the last few months, Internet privacy bills such as SOPA/PIPA and CISPA have been introduced in Congress, posing various threats to the freedom of the World Wide Web. Though SOPA/PIPA were defeated earlier in the year, attention has arrived to another piece of legislation called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). This bill is aimed at limiting the amount of “cyber threats” and sharing of “private intellectual property.”
Unlike SOPA/PIPA, CISPA is written in very vague language and has yet to cause a massive uprise of Internet activists, or “hacktivists.” However, the proposal of this act, along with the recent history of bills like this world wide, has caused many to question the future of the Internet’s freedom. As companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T and Verizon put their support behind CISPA, the chance of even more limits being placed on Cyberspace is becoming more probable.
In an interview with the Guardian, Google co-founder Sergey Brin expressed his concerns for the future of the Internet. Brin, being a major player in the creation of search engines remarked on the openness of the Internet and the power of shared information online. The vastness of information and possibility in cyberspace has become a place for ingenuity and expression, yet bills such as CISPA strive to put a limit on the freedom the Internet provides. Brin warned that Congress’ attempt to regulate the Internet more closely could bring negative effects.
“The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation,” the Google co-founder said.
Though CISPA has not caused as big of an uproar as its counterparts: SOPA/PIPA, Brin’s warning and the concern of others for the future of the Internet should not be ignored. The issue is much more than a few bills trying to get through Congress, it’s about the government trying to take hold of the Internet.
For years, the Internet has existed as an entity that has continued to grow and change to serve various purposes. The World Wide Web has been the arena for the spread of political activism, social networking, entertainment and new forms of journalism such as news blogs and online newspapers. It’s because of the Internet that intelligence and support of the Arab Spring was so widespread and people like Rebecca Black gained popularity. Though some would argue that not all things made popular by the Internet are good, the fact of the matter is that the Internet has provided an outlet for freedom of expression and connectivity that has never existed before. Putting limits on how much we can do online poses a threat to that freedom and is quickly becoming a reality.
As the Internet continues to expand and provide an immeasurable amount of space for the exchange of information and ideas, the issue of what should be monitored and regulated online has become apparent. The efforts to limit Internet users’ freedom do not end with SOPA/PIPA or the possibility of CISPA. Our government, along with other nations, has not given up the idea of placing restrictions on the Internet and neither should we. So long as threats to our privacy still exist, Internet users should be aware and vocal about opposing those limitations.
Upon the arrival of SOPA/PIPA, mass opposition was presented throughout the Internet with websites including Wikipedia and Reddit participating in a blackout and millions of users expressing their opinions through blogs, tweets, trends, etc. The overnight onslaught of outrage in regards to SOPA/PIPA made headlines and stirred opposition all over the world, thus resulting in the bills being postponed indefinitely in Congress. But the battle over our online liberties continues as the government continues to shut down websites like Megaupload and proposing legislation like CISPA. Citizens and websites concerned for the future of the Internet should continue to voice their opposition to these restrictions. It seems as if the general population of Internet users forgot about SOPA just as quickly as it arrived to the front of their news feeds. However, this issue isn’t a fad, it is a very possible reality that poses a threat to our freedom of expression and is not to be forgotten.
Sarah Menendez is a first-year political science and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.