Yahoo! News reports Ron Paul only GOP Candidate to Publicly Denounce SOPA

GOP presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul came out Wednesday in support of the “blackout” efforts taking place across the Web protesting pending anti-piracy legislation many have decried as an Internet censorship effort.

Paul made a statement through a Facebook status update, saying:

“My campaign, and the entire freedom movement, would not be as strong as they are today without a free Internet, and that’s just one of the reasons why the establishment hopes to censor it with SOPA and PIPA. I’m proud to see so many taking a stand today. Contact your representative and senators and tell them to oppose these disastrous bills.”

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich – at least on Facebook and Twitter — were silent on the issue, and instead devoted their social media platforms to further campaign against one another.

Paul’s son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, also came out Wednesday pledging to filibuster PIPA, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring to the Senate floor on January 24.

What is SOPA and Why Won’t it Work?

SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act. The name may sound nice, but here are some choice comments from Wikipedia.

Impact on Online Freedom of Speech

Opponents have warned that SOPA would have a negative impact on online communities. Journalist Rebecca MacKinnon argued in an op-ed that making companies liable for users’ actions could have a chilling effect on user-generated sites such as YouTube. “The intention is not the same as China’s Great Firewall, a nationwide system of Web censorship, but the practical effect could be similar,” she says. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) warned that websites Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo all seemed likely to shut down if the bill becomes law.

Policy analysts for New America Foundation say this legislation would enable law enforcement to take down an entire domain due to something posted on a single blog, arguing, “an entire largely innocent online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority.”

Additional concerns include the impact on common Internet functions such as linking or access data from the cloud. EFF claimed the bill would ban linking to sites deemed offending, even in search results[32] and on services such as Twitter.[33] Christian Dawson, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Virginia-based hosting company ServInt, predicted that the legislation would lead to many cloud computing and Web hosting services moving out of the US to avoid lawsuits.[34] The Electronic Frontier Foundation have stated that the requirement that any site must self-police user generated content would impose significant liability costs and explains “why venture capitalists have said en masse they won’t invest in online startups if PIPA and SOPA pass.”[35]

Weakening of “safe harbor” protections

According to critics of the bill such as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the bill’s wording is vague enough that a single complaint about a site could be enough to block it, with the burden of proof resting on the site. A provision in the bill states that any site would be blocked that “is taking, or has taken deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the U.S.-directed site to carry out acts that constitute a violation.” Critics have read this to mean that a site must actively monitor its content and identify violations to avoid blocking, rather than relying on others to notify it of such violations.

Web-related businesses

An analysis in the information technology magazine eWeek stated, “The language of SOPA is so broad, the rules so unconnected to the reality of Internet technology and the penalties so disconnected from the alleged crimes that this bill could effectively kill e-commerce or even normal Internet use. The bill also has grave implications for existing U.S., foreign and international laws and is sure to spend decades in court challenges.”

Internal networks

A paper by the Center for Democracy and Technology claimed that the bill “targets an entire website even if only a small portion hosts or links to some infringing content.”

Impact on web-browsing software

The Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concern that free and open source software (FLOSS) projects found to be aiding online piracy could experience serious problems under SOPA. Of special concern was the web browser Firefox, which has an optional extension, MAFIAAFire Redirector, that redirects users to a new location for domains that were seized by the U.S. government. In May 2011, Mozilla refused a request by the Department of Homeland Security to remove MAFIAAFire from its website, questioning whether the software had ever been declared illegal.

Potential Effectiveness

Edward J. Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communication Industry Association, wrote in the Huffington Post that “Ironically, it would do little to stop actual pirate websites, which could simply reappear hours later under a different name, if their numeric web addresses aren’t public even sooner. Anyone who knows or has that web address would still be able to reach the offending website.”

An editorial in the San Jose Mercury-News stated, “Imagine the resources required to parse through the millions of Google and Facebook offerings every day looking for pirates who, if found, can just toss up another site in no time.”

John Palfrey of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society commented, “DNS filtering is by necessity either overbroad or underbroad; it either blocks too much or too little. Content on the Internet changes its place and nature rapidly, and DNS filtering is ineffective when it comes to keeping up with it.”

Policy analysts for New America Foundation say this legislation would “instigate a data obfuscation arms race” whereby by increasingly invasive practices would be required to monitor users’ web traffic resulting in a “counterproductive cat-and-mouse game of censorship and circumvention would drive savvy scofflaws to darknets while increasing surveillance of less technically proficient Internet users.”

Never-Ending Witch Hunt

In short, SOPA is nothing but an never-ending witch hunt proposal that would allow the shutting down of websites, including mine, Zero Hedge, Max Keiser, Town Hall, ML-Implode, Calculated Risk, Naked Capitalism, Patrick, the Big Picture, and other alternative news sites on the most flimsy of reasons without doing anything to curb online piracy.

In the title to this post, I used the phrase “won’t work” rather loosely. By “won’t work” I meant the bill will not achieve the stated goal of stopping piracy. It may indeed “work” in the sense it would allow government to shut down sites for political reasons on trumped-up charges.

Close analysis shows the bill is really nothing but more “big brother” legislation and another attack on freedom of speech. Ron Paul is on the right side of this issue. Once again, he is the only one.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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