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5 ways CISPA could be worse than SOPA for Internet activists

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 26, 2012 15:19 EDT
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A man is protected by an umbrella from falling lines of code. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
 
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The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and the now-dead Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are two very different beasts aimed at solving two distinctly separate problems, yet CISPA has been characterized in the media as a sequel to SOPA, in an effort to link a new and relatively obscure controversy to one that’s much better known.

CISPA, which passed U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday evening by a vote of 248-168, actually appears to be much worse than SOPA for Internet freedom advocates. These are the top reasons why…

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5. SOPA would have destroyed website domains over copyright, but CISPA will destroy all semblance of privacy on the Internet.

CISPA proposes a merger of sorts between corporate and government networks, giving the National Security Agency full access to private user data and granting legal immunity to private entities who help them. That’s precisely why President Barack Obama brandished his veto pen this week, warning that he’ll send CISPA back to Congress if lawmakers don’t balance the bill’s national security interests with user privacy and civil liberties protections.

4. SOPA put media pirates in the sights of content creators, but CISPA puts whistleblowers and journalists in the sights of corporations and governments.

Imagine if Bank of America knew that WikiLeaks had obtained a cache of its internal documents the very instant that transmission was made, and a financial blockade were launched before WikiLeaks could even begin examining the files. Because CISPA words the definition of “cyber threat intelligence” to include “theft or misappropriation of private or government information” and “intellectual property,” that’s precisely what’s at stake here.

3. SOPA would have broken the core architecture of the Internet to censor individual websites, but CISPA could aid the censorship of entire societies.

By making anonymizing services into some kind of existential threat, CISPA could lead to whole societies seeing their last means of access to the free and open Internet choked out. That’s good for dictators — many of whom bought their network censorship technology from some of the same western companies clamoring for protection — but very, very bad for the people.

2. SOPA would have given too much power to content creators, but CISPA proposes complete spying freedom for an agency that’s wholly unaccountable.

What exactly is the NSA up to out in Utah? Other than constructing a massive new data center, nobody really knows, but whistleblowers have warned that the agency is creating, in effect, a new Manhattan Project — a machine that can access and categorize all electronic communications around the world. But since the NSA always claims the privilege of “state secrets,” not even the Supreme Court is willing to force them to talk.

1. SOPA was similar to a bailout for a few Hollywood studios, but CISPA is like a bailout for the whole tech industry.

After all, who wouldn’t want a government minder as a personal bodyguard during travels abroad? By placing the NSA on guard for corporate network security, big tech firms like AT&T, Verizon, IBM, Facebook and Google won’t be as hard-pressed by market forces — like rival companies and, yes, even hackers — to innovate their security technologies, leaving the heaviest lifting, and spending, up to Big Brother instead. If that’s not a bailout, what is?

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Updated with a vote total from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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