Monday, January 16, 2012

Obama administration expresses skepticism on SOPA, OPEN, and PIPA

The White House's "We the People" site is where the public can create petitions, and if they reach a certain level of signatures in a 30-day period, the White House has promised an official response. Given that, the White House responded to a petition regarding SOPA (the Stop Internet Piracy Act), which critics say is a slippery slope to Web censorship.

In their response to the petition, three advisers to the White House, Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt, said they believed that SOPA and other such legislation (PIPA, OPEN) could make Internet businesses vulnerable to litigation while at the same time harming both legal activity and free speech.

Howard Schmidt is officially the Cyber-Security Coordinator of the Obama Administration, frequently shortened to Cyber Security Czar. Aneesh Chopra is the Federal Chief Technology Officer of the United States, the first in that post. Victoria Espinel is the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the Office of Management and Budget.

Among the key points in the statement were:

"Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small." [This is one of the concerns brought up by critics of SOPA and PIPA.] [...]

"We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. [...]

"Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. [...]

"So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right."

We've already discussed how, as currently written, SOPA would leave its primary target, The Pirate Bay, untouched.

These bills have been called overkill and a road to a "Great Firewall of America," similar to China's widely known "Great Firewall of China," which is used to silence the opposition.

The proposed legislation has drawn criticismboycotts, and even apps in an effort to halt their passage.

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