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    "You must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." T. Jefferson

Posts Tagged ‘SOPA’

Internet freedom at risk again

Posted by Free to Think on May 9, 2012

“CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people.”Rep. Ron Paul

Back in January I wrote a piece about SOPA and PIPA, the overreaching online piracy bills that threatened to censor free speech and invade our privacy in the name of fighting copyright infringement. Though I was celebrating the popular outcry that resulted in the bills being dropped by both houses of Congress, I warned that “SOPA and PIPA will likely return in some form.” As predicted, similar legislation has been introduced, and it didn’t take long.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, passed in the House of Representatives last week and now heads to the Senate. Its stated purpose is to thwart the trafficking of pirated and counterfeit goods online.

Intellectual property theft is a huge problem. But many Internet and communications experts say that this legislation will not only be ineffective against copyright infringers, but could be easily abused by those who gather our personal information.

If enacted, CISPA would allow the government and technology companies to share confidential information about Internet users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the bill “leaves ample room for abuse,” and that it would “cut a loophole in all existing privacy laws.”

What has sparked privacy worries is the section of CISPA that says “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with any other entity, including the federal government. By including this phrase, it’s possible for CISPA to nullify existing federal and state laws that protect our private information. “Notwithstanding any other provision of law” is so broad a term that in 2003 the non-partisan Congressional Research Service warned against using the phrase in legislation because of “unforeseen consequences for both existing and future laws.”

If CISPA is enacted, “part of the problem is we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” says Lee Tien, an attorney at EFF, which sued AT&T over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

On April 26, twenty-two civil liberty organizations such as the ACLU signed a letter urging our legislators to vote against CISPA, stating, “We are gravely concerned that this bill will allow companies that hold very sensitive and personal information to liberally share it with the government, which could then use the information without meaningful oversight.”

Mozilla has also issued the following statement, “While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.”

Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CBS subsidiary CNET, cautions that CISPA would allow any user’s personal information to be inspected by government agencies as long as companies agreed to share it. And already pledging their support is Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and the trade association of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm.

Even without the privacy concerns, the effectiveness of this legislation is questionable.

“Imagine the resources required to parse through the millions of Google and Facebook offerings every day looking for pirates who, if found, can just toss up another site in no time,” points out the San Jose News in an editorial. “When political polar opposites like San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul are both arguing against a piece of legislation, you know it must have serious problems.”

Edward J. Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communication Industry Association, writes that, “Ironically, it would do little to stop actual pirate websites, which could simply reappear hours later under a different name. New America Foundation predicts that this legislation would instigate a data “arms race” requiring increasingly invasive practices to monitor users’ web traffic.

Over 650,000 have signed an Avaaz.org petition against CISPA. Click here to add your voice.

 

Posted in constitutional rights, curtailing freedom, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Being manipulated by the media

Posted by Free to Think on April 4, 2012

It’s obvious that it’s in the government’s best interest to invoke the support of the people when pursuing war. The last thing the federal government wants is public uprising and dissent getting in the way of a well-laid war agenda.

History has proven that government has had little problem acquiring the cooperation of the mass media to advance their propaganda. This is not speculation but fact. Here’s one video that provides just a few well-documented examples of how a sometimes docile, sometimes wantonly deceptive press has advanced false information provided by government.

In a nation where nearly all mass media is controlled by just a few large corporations, how we can search for the truth?

This year it was revealed that the U.S. government is creating fake social media accounts to help steer public opinion on popular websites. Where is the mainstream media’s coverage of this important story?

As disheartening as this is, we must continue to search for the truth. The wide choice of online sources at our fingertips gives us the freedom to explore and seek out websites that we trust. Unlike most major media sites, on many independent websites you can check source documentation with just a click of a hyperlink.

Want to read about bills being proposed without the editorializing of media-selected ‘pundits’? At PopVox you can search on bills by issue, find information on recently introduced legislation in a non-partisan format, learn exactly which legislators and organizations are supporting the bills, and read the opinions of others on both sides of the argument.

My favorite website? Reason.com, As they describe on their ‘About’ page, “Reason provides a refreshing alternative to right-wing and left-wing opinion magazines by making a principled case for liberty and individual choice in all areas of human activity.”

See the Blogroll on the right side of my webpage for other sites I respect.

This is just one reason why it’s vital to protect Internet freedom from the controls of SOPA or any other government regulation.

You have the means to think for yourself. Question what you’re told. Do your due diligence before coming to conclusions.

Posted in Media bias, military, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Power of the People

Posted by Free to Think on January 23, 2012

Typically my blog posts are full of doom and gloom, but this week I’m happy to comment on good news: the American public stood up for their rights and actually won.

The Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) were introduced as a way to thwart intellectual property theft and sales of counterfeit products online. But opposition from Internet-based companies and their users argued that the bill would lead to over-regulation and censorship. An excellent short video describing how these laws could curtail freedom can be seen here.

On January 18th, 13 million of us took the time to tell Congress that we wanted to protect free speech rights on the Internet. In fact, so many voters bombarded their senators and congressmen with so many protest messages that it temporarily knocked out some representatives websites.  Petition drives abounded, such as the one by Google which attracted more than 7 million participants.

The power of the Internet has given us opportunities to rally together like we never have before. And finally, Americans seized the chance. On Friday the bills, which were being fast-tracked through Congress, were indefinitely shelved.

The bills had been backed by the entertainment industry and also initially by Congress. Only 5 senators opposed the bill the week it was introduced. Then the protests began. Within a week 35 senators publicly opposed PIPA.

Ron Paul denounced SOPA from its inception, the first Republican congressman to oppose it. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were silent on the issue until after the massive public protests. Rick Santorum remained the only Republican presidential candidate to defend some form of the bills during Thursday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina.

Last week, incensed Hollywood executives cancelled Obama fundraisers when the President also sided against the legislation.

Former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd is now Chairman of MPAA, the movie studio lobby that crafted these bills. He told the New York Times that passage of PIPA and SOPA had been “considered to be a slam-dunk.” The bills were backed by over 350 large, powerful corporations and organizations. Comparing the protests to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, Mr. Dodd said he was humbled to learn that “no Washington player can safely assume that a well-wired, heavily financed legislative program is safe from a sudden burst of Web-driven populism.”

I must admit that when I went to Wikipedia last Thursday only to find it blacked out in protest, it was quite a powerful statement. A sampling of some of the best website protests can be seen here.

“It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman and SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith.

Hurray, the people made their wishes known! Yes Mr. Chairman, we’d like the government to address the problem of piracy without claiming the right to completely choke off the traffic, free speech and revenue of entire web sites without ever having to try or convict its owners of any crime. Even without these expanded powers, sites have already been wrongfully shuttered by the government.

Copyright owners do need to be able to go after piracy sites, and they already have some mechanisms at their disposal. But these industries have concocted some truly absurd statistics purporting apocalyptic damages that require draconian measures, while in fact these businesses remain very healthy.

SOPA and PIPA will likely return in some form, as the bills were not killed, just postponed.

The SOPA/ PIPA protest was one of the biggest populist movements in America since the Vietnam War, engaging millions of Americans to rally against governmental policy that could substantially change the way we live. Yet there was relatively scant coverage of the movement in the major mass media. Last week, news organizations seemed to find the Italian cruise ship disaster, which killed 12 people on the other side of the globe, much more newsworthy. It should be noted that these media outlets are owned by the same corporations that sponsored these bills.

Americans have proven that the right to gather information and communicate on the web freely is very important to us. Now if only the public would get equally up in arms about the national debt and government detention laws!

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Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, Media bias, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »