How are you doing today, with some of the world’s most popular websites shutting down in protest at proposed US regulations?
I’m doing OK, I guess. Mainly because I had a lie-in and then spent a couple of hours doing lots of offline work that didn’t need any internet access at all. I’m not taking part, beyond having this blog hosted on WordPress.com (who are), and agreeing with the strikers.
Let’s get one thing straight: SOPA and PIPA, the legislative acts that are being proposed, are not only muddled, wrong-headed and overly punitive, but they could have the perverse effect of making the internet more dangerous for ordinary users by potentially breaking the DNS system. And that should terrify everyone, not just US citizens.
ICANN, the body that basically manages the internet, is based in the United States. It has to adhere to US law. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, many other of those websites striking today are in the same position. Just because they have a global reach doesn’t mean that their size will protect them from what’s going on on their home turf. This is despite the fact that the US by no means makes up the majority of global internet users, despite the power of Silicon Valley.
Should the rest of us be worried? Obviously. If the websites that we have come to rely on (no matter how incidentally) become vulnerable to malicious and vindictive regulation, it affects not only their US users, but their global audience. So what is to be done? Well, aside from encouraging everyone to move to Iceland, which is planning to position itself as a bastion of internet freedom, we can fight for internet freedom on our own turf. We have to agitate against action we see being taken that might undermine internet freedom elsewhere.
Above all, we must support those who are willing to take a stand, whether or not it causes us a minor inconvenience for a few hours. So lobby your local politicians, threaten to move your domains if your webhost looks wobbly, and join the virtual picket against shoddy lawmaking.
[Image by Steve Rhodes]