HUA HIN, Thailand - The Internet
community united this week in protest at two
United States anti-piracy bills that, if approved,
could result in unprecedented levels of online
censorship. The congressional bills, Stop Online
Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual
Property Act (PIPA), are backed by major media
companies in an effort to restrict illegal
downloading and streaming of TV shows and movies
from the Internet.
If implemented, the
bills would grant power to limit access to and
block websites deemed to be allowing the
distribution of copyright material.
Critics say the definitions involved are
too broad, such as the term "search engine", which
could result in entire websites being taken
offline for having links to material hosted
elsewhere. The primary
concern is that the US
would be building its own Great Firewall, giving
it a stranglehold on the web, starting with SOPA
and PIPA. This heavy-handed approach would result
in a cloak of censorship across the globe.
On Wednesday, a number of major players on
the Internet went dark and shut down their
websites for a 24-hour protest. Wikipedia replaced
its home page with a black screen and the message
"For over a decade, we have spent millions of
hours building the largest encyclopedia in human
history. Right now, the US Congress is considering
legislation that could fatally damage the free and
open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness,
we are blacking out Wikipedia."
joined in by prompting people to sign a petition
 and stating, "The most effective way to shut
down pirate websites is through targeted
legislation that cuts off their funding. There's
no need to make American social networks, blogs
and search engines censor the Internet or
undermine the existing laws that have enabled the
Web to thrive, creating millions of US jobs."
At the time of writing, 4.5 million
Internet users had signed the petition, according
to Google, and over 3 million messages on the
subject made it onto Twitter. The protest began to
snowball mid-week, with others, including
Craigslist, Facebook, Yahoo's Flikr and Reddit,
voicing their opposition against the proposed
legislation. Several other Internet companies,
including AOL, eBay, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Yahoo and
Zynga, wrote a letter to the US Congress
highlighting the implications on job creation and
innovation in the industry.
protests also began in earnest as people took to
the streets of New York, San Francisco and Las
Vegas to raise awareness of SOPA and PIPA and the
danger they present to a free and open Internet.
United States senators and politicians in
favor of the acts have labeled the web blackout a
"publicity stunt" and "gimmick", promoting fear
instead of fact.
Supporters of the bills,
including Hollywood movie industry leaders, the US
Chamber of Commerce, Rupert Murdoch's News
Corporation and the Motion Picture Association of
America, claim that they are necessary to protect
content providers being plagiarized by rogue
websites beyond the enforcement reach of US
Google pointed out that
censorship regulations wouldn't shut down rogue
websites as they would just change their addresses
and continue their criminal activities, while
law-abiding companies would suffer high penalties
for breaches they could not possibly control.
Following one of the largest digital
protests in recent times, political support for
the two bills began to wane, with a number of
senators previously in favor of them voicing
reservations and stating that there was a lack of
consensus on them. The power of protest this week
has proved at least one thing: that the Internet
has politically come of age.
Security Cyber skirmishes in the
Middle East escalated this week as Israel and its
neighbors exchanged digital blows on the Internet.
Just days after an unidentified hacker with
proclaimed Palestinian sympathies posted thousands
of Israeli credit card details stolen from an
e-commerce site, Israel came under attack in what
the government has called a cyber-offensive.
Hackers targeted the Tel Aviv Stock
Exchange, El Al Airlines and three banks causing
intermittent access and services. Stock trading
and banking services were not affected, though the
First International Bank of Israel did block
international access to its website as a security
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel
Ayalon stated that Israel would respond, as it
usually does, by striking back with force against
the attackers. Hackers going by the name IDF-Team
wasted no time in targeting websites of the Saudi
Stock Exchange and the Abu Dhabi Securities
Exchange in retaliation.
tensions continue to build in the real world with
little or no end in sight, the digital battles
online are bound to follow.
Industry Canadian BlackBerry
maker Research In Motion enjoyed a rare surge in
stock value this week as shares jumped as much as
10% on the back of a rumor that South Korea's
Samsung may be interested in buying the struggling
mobile phone company. The joy for BlackBerry
investors was short-lived, as Samsung released a
statement on Wednesday claiming that the company
hasn't considered acquiring the RIM and is not
interested in buying it.
struggling to maintain a viable place in a market
increasingly consumed by Google and Apple and
their burgeoning online app stores.