“Freedom of speech and expression” was once again under threat on the announcement of SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill was first introduced in October 2011 in order to protect corporations from being victims of piracy. Superficially the bill looks like a golden ticket to a “piracy free” internet. However, the catch lies in the fact that the bill is worded so vaguely that corporations can get undue advantage and the ability to sue sites like Facebook, Tumblr etc. on insignificant claims. User generated content on sites like YouTube will definitely face steam if this bill is passed. This could potentially mean an end to all those videos of people singing their favorite rock star’s songs amongst others. This bill will impact some of the internet giants of our time such as Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter etc. Internet would cease to be a free channel of information exchange.
Social Media sites have decided to protest against the impending bill by going on a complete blackout of their services which could seriously hamper advertisers, brands as well as users. This decision was started by Jimmy Wales who threatened to shut down Wikipedia in protest of the bill. Websites like Google and Facebook too decided to join in on the protest of a bill that could threaten their stand in the Internet world.
We cannot argue that piracy has been one of the evils plaguing the internet since its beginning. Users have downloaded, uploaded and shared data that they do not have rights to and there needs to be a way to put a stop to this. However, it cannot be said that there is no screening and regulation of any kind. Google uses both bots and humans to regularly get rid of sites that are found to share data illegally. By demoting search rankings the site is doing its bit to reduce the chances of pirated content spreading further. While it may look like an “American” phenomenon at the moment, it won’t be long before this bill triggers similar such laws in other continents. We need to find a way to protect the rights of content on the web without hampering the social needs of an individual.