Jan 18

A Brief Comment on SOPA

Today’s been an interesting ‘net news day. Lots of people commenting on SOPA (and to a lesser extent, PIPA) but I’ve also seen comments on FB/Twitter/G+ implying the reaction to SOPA is somehow… inappropriate or repulsive. That this level of reaction should be reserved for more “important/serious” issues like gang violence, the homeless epidemic, health care, education, etc. I mean no disrespect, and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I firmly believe the people making those arguments don’t actually understand the scope of what SOPA/PIPA would do.

The idea that legislation which would effectively revoke one of the fundamental rights on which this country was founded, i.e., free speech, could be considered neither “serious” nor “important” is simultaneously frightening and mind-boggling to me. Even if I can somehow manage to put that aside… and I really, REALLY can’t… the fact that this legislation effectively allows large, established companies to shut down rival sites indefinitely (without a trial!) – thereby destroying their livelihood – should, as my father would say, un-kink the colon of every small business owner, entrepreneur, and anyone who cares about them including family, friends, and would-be employees looking for a job in this shit economy.

To those who have compared SOPA to some of life’s other evils: yes, you are right.

Children going without enough to eat in this supposed land-of-plenty is horrible.
Children being shot where they stand as collateral damage in gang wars because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time is horrible and tragic.
The pathetic state of our education and healthcare systems is horrible.

These are all Big Fucking Deals.

But, guess what?

So is SOPA.
And so is PIPA.

These bills have the power to fundamentally change our way of life by making censorship and suppression of free speech a web standard. It would be as ubiquitous as HTML, HTTP, and photos of cats. It would fundamentally break the Internet’s infrastructure and destroy innovation because every time something new came along that threatened the status quo, those who were threatened would have the power to stifle it. That means among other things:

No (or very little) new technology.
Fewer new jobs.
Crippled entrepreneurship.

And did I mention: A LEGAL JUSTIFICATION FOR SUPPRESSING FREE SPEECH! That’s an honest-to-God Constitutional right being violated, people, not an extrapolation/interpretation of what the Founding Fathers meant by this-or-that.

I know that we all have our pet issues – those things that really make our blood boil and make us exclaim, “why aren’t people taking this seriously”.

But that doesn’t make it okay.

Understand what you’re talking about before you dismiss an issue just because you feel something else is “more important”. Ignorance is not an excuse; it is a weakness.