Entries Tagged as 'freedom'

Anti SOPA/PIPA Action

The US Congress has been considering two amazingly awful bills recently, even by their woeful recent standards, one in the House (SOPA) and one in the Senate (PIPA). Their purpose is ostensibly to combat offshore “piracy” of US intellectual property. The bills have had wide support across both sides of the aisle and with Hollywood, but they have been roundly criticized and attacked as the wrong solution to the wrong problem by many in the technical community. Oregon’s own Senator Ron Wyden has taken a lead role in opposing the Senate bill. In the last few weeks, as a vote has neared on the legislation, the technical community has rallied to demonstrate the profound depth of their displeasure over the misguided approach taken by the bills. A general strike, of a sort, was called for January 18th, today. Various prominent websites around the Internet are taking action, including Wikipedia and Google among many, many others, each in their own way. Some sites are “going dark”, others are linking to explanations of the issue.

Personal Telco, to whom Internet Freedom is of paramount concern, has long been opposed to the bills. In recent days, we have considered different ways of participating in the protest against the legislation. One possibility was to simply “go dark” for the day, to stop routing traffic from the free wifi networks we have helped to set up. However, we reasoned that this would disable the very communications that citizens would need to take action, to learn and communicate their displeasure to Congress. Therefore, Personal Telco decided instead that we would lay out in stark terms what we see as the stakes in this fight, and to display them in place of the normal splash page employed on many of our networks.

We see this legislation as a step down the wrong path, a path followed by governments like China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, which compel companies to collaborate with the governments censorship dictates. We see this as a usurpation of power to control the access to information our government doesn’t like. Today, the issue is framed in terms of copyright infringement, but there is little doubt the targets would soon creep from there. If the mechanisms are in place, there is very little to prevent Congress from expanding the scope to WikiLeaks or Al Jazeera, or the next “unacceptable” outlet of contrarian information. We must not allow those in power to control and bound the scope of permissible thought. We, as citizens, must have access to the information necessary to guide our country’s affairs. The powerful have succeeded to a large degree of co-opting most channels of mass media. The Internet has remained the last best hope for regular people to maintain a thin reed of control over our “leaders”, an open conveyance providing a free flow of ideas. We must not allow it to be co-opted as well.

It is unlikely that those in power will desist in their efforts to castrate the opportunities provided by the Internet, unless the people that the Internet empowers make it abundantly clear that they simply will not tolerate it. The Personal Telco Project stands with those in favor of Freedom.

Despite the grasp that our Senator Wyden has demonstrated of what is at stake, other representatives in the area have thus far seemingly lacked the courage to stand with us. Senator Jeff Merkley has yet to announce a position. In fact, none of the Oregon delegation except Wyden have taken a public position on these bills. So, dear reader, take this opportunity to learn about what is at stake. Call your Senators and Congressman and demand that they respect that oath they took, to support and defend the US Constitution, including the Freedom to Read embodied in the First Amendment, as well as the right to Due Process.

The blunt words of our splash page today may yet help lead us all to a better tomorrow. In either case, normal operation will resume on Thursday. We would much prefer that distracting you was not necessary. Thank you for your help.