Today several popular websites, including the Wikipedia English language page, have blacked out their pages in opposition to the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. They are blocking their users while suggesting that these bills, if they become law, would truly black out their sites.
But these websites’ actions rest on the false premise that the legislation would actually target them. Popular websites like Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook would not remotely qualify as the foreign rogue sites targeted by the bills. Senator Leahy and Representative Smith have issued detailed fact sheets on why these websites and social networks are not affected. And both bills ensure that no monitoring or “policing” of users’ activity is required while respecting due process and the First Amendment.
The legislation targets criminals: foreign thieves who profit from pirated content and counterfeit goods. These foreign rogue websites are operating freely today while legitimate American businesses are opposing legislation that would block these criminal websites from the American market.
Google has not blacked out its website but it is also protesting today. Here are the facts about Google: it has more power than any other company or country in blocking searches or websites. It already blocks searches in the United States without claiming censorship. As it states on its policy blog today, “Last year alone we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages.” Google knows full well that what it already does in the U.S.—and what it would be required to do under the proposed legislation—is not “censorship.”
The real problem is foreign rogue sites that are harmful to consumers and threaten American jobs. Even Google and its allies in the technology community claim to agree that this is a problem. But their actions today show they are in no hurry to fix it.