I am sure you remember the successful movement earlier this year to prevent Congress from passing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA.) Tens of millions of people around the world signed petitions from websites such as Google and Wikipedia while many websites “went black” for a day to protest what they saw as an attempt by the feds to censor the internet.
Unfortunately, the Republican House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate still don’t seem to have gotten the message. You see, while both parties claim to disagree on a lot of issues, they agree basically that the federal government needs to police the internet in the name of innocent-sounding reasons like “copyright protection” and “cyber-security.” Each bill addressing these “problems” has had bipartisan support. I wonder what part of the Constitution will be referred to by the House in justifying the passage of one or more of these bills into law (more on the Constitution in a bit…)
The latest bill to be introduced that threatens to censor the web is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA.) Some consider it to be worse than its predecessors, unfortunately. Essentially, CISPA allows companies to collect information about you and then report said info to the feds. The government simply needs to request this into in the name of cyber-security.
The actual language of the bill is rather vague and could very well allow Congress to monitor, censor, and delete any online communications that it considers to be “disruptive” to the government and the big corporations and special interests behind this anti-free internet legislation.
Kendall Burman of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which supports a free and open internet, says that our of the several cyber-security bills pending in Congress, CISPA is the “most alarming.” It does not specify to whom in the government that this collected information would go, although Ms. Burman thinks it is likely it will go into the hands of the NSA, which is quite reassuring.
Is this bill constitutional? I know that collectivists on both sides of the aisle who support this legislation will say something like the following: “Back in the day while writing the Constitution, the Founders could not have possibly predicted the rise of computer technology as well as the downsides that come with it.” On this point in and of itself, I agree with them; nevertheless, the Constitution does not authorize Congress to pass laws like these (as per Article I, Section 8.) At the very least, it imposes an enormous threat to our First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press as well as our Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unnecessary searches from authority.
Besides, Ms. Burman insists that law enforcement already has plenty of tools at its disposal to combat the crimes that the co-sponsors of this legislation are concerned with. Also, she is concerned that this bill could lead to a “backdoor wiretap or a surveillance program” by an innocent-sounding name (i.e. the PATRIOT Act.)
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