The Internet’s perilous New year’s resolution

December 27, 2011 | Source: Technology Review

Internet legislation that is scheduled for a vote in the U.S. Senate next month would aim to stop the unlicensed downloading of billions of dollars’ worth of movies and music — as well as the trade in counterfeit drugs and other goods — by blocking access to certain websites, many of them registered abroad. But its basic strategies could lead to trouble on several fronts.

If the U.S. government were to order the widespread blocking of websites, authoritarian regimes that censor the Internet would be likely to trumpet the news for political cover, argues Hal Roberts, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “China and other countries happily defend their filtering practices by pointing out that some Western countries filter as well,” Roberts says, “and laws like SOPA will only make it easier for them.”

The crackdown may also unintentionally weaken Internet security, because the legislation could let courts order Internet service providers, search engines, domain-name servers and others to block Web addresses or send people to addresses other than the ones they typed or clicked. That redirection is also a key tool for committing Internet fraud.

SOPA has the support of more than 140 companies and organizations, mainly in the music, book, television, and film industries. Many major Internet companies oppose it.

The Senate bill is scheduled for a January 24 vote. A similar House bill, called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is still in the Judiciary Committee.

See also: EFF — Wrapping Up a Week Of Action Against SOPA,
SOPA and our 2010 Circumvention Study,
Go Daddy Faces Boycott Threat From SOPA Opponents