Not content to merely lick its wounds after the unprecedented implosion of the Stop Online Piracy Act, your United States House of Representatives is busying itself with yet another piece of draconian Internet censorship legislation.
It's called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and this time the rhetorical tack is "cyber security." Alas, the core argument at the heart of SOPA (Them pirates is takin our jebs!) wasn't enough to galvanize the public to support laws that would grant more power to waning media companies that choose to legislative rather than innovate. Now Congress is trying to scare you with the specter of jihadists fomenting violence in your hard drive.
And, wouldn't you know it, it's got the sponsorship of four Tennessee congresscritters, including recording industry darlings Jim Cooper and Marsha Blackburn.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that the bill would allow the government and corporations to circumvent existing privacy laws under the auspices of fighting terrorism, but also if intellectual property is threatened.
It’s a little piece of SOPA wrapped up in a bill that’s supposedly designed to facilitate detection of and defense against cybersecurity threats. The language is so vague that an ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even Interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.
The bill's defenders are quick to distance the new bill (CISPA) from the old one (SOPA), like a used car salesman who assures you that the bumper won't fall off this time.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and sponsor of CISPA, stressed that while SOPA focused on intellectual property and copyright protection, his bill is intended only to protect American computer networks from cyberattacks in the name of national security.
“They are so completely different,” said Rogers, adding that comparing them is akin to “comparing apples and oranges.” He later added, “I think it’s extremely important we deal with the issue of SOPA. Clearly, there is no censorship or shutting any website down. The government doesn’t have any authority in this bill to do anything like this.”
Rogers defended the bill, saying CISPA isn’t concerned with “.mp3 files, movies or music” but rather with higher-end business’ intellectual property such as “pesticide formulas, jet engines and car parts.” These properties are being stolen in cyberattacks by other countries, giving foreign firms an unfair advantage in the global marketplace.
But the bill is riddled with such broad language that pesticide formulas, jet engines and car parts are only part of the equation. TechDirt sums it up best:
...this is a bad, bad bill, which effectively will lead to significant spying on Internet usage and private communications by the government with little to no oversight — and that includes not just domestic law enforcement, but military spying as well. The whole thing is absolutely crazy (especially when there are less onerous bills that are much more sensible).
The truly amazing part: that politicians in Congress would simply think there's no problem making massive Internet regulatory change without actually looking at the impact on ordinary users and how they feel about it so soon after SOPA. It seems clear that many elected officials still haven't received the message that politicians should not be mucking with the Internet when they clearly don't understand it.