PIPA / SOPA and the Online Tsunami: A First Draft of the Future

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6. The Internet community is borderless, and the whole world will be watching. The Internet community does not reside within U.S. borders, and for this reason, the response to SOPA and PIPA was truly international. Advocates and Internet users are keenly aware of the effects U.S. decisions on Internet blocking would have around the world.

Although the media tended to focus on the momentum of U.S. grassroots activism, there was significant international opposition, too. Avaaz, a worldwide online activism network, received more than 3 million signatures on a petition opposing the legislation. More than 50 international Internet and human rights organizations signed letters of opposition, because they immediately grasped the danger these bills held for Internet freedom.

In an op-ed, Ivan Sigal and Rebecca MacKinnon quote a Chinese blogger to summarize the risk: "In China 'copyright' is one of many excuses to crack down on political movements. ... If a new law like SOPA is introduced in the U.S., the Chinese government and official media will use it to support their version of 'anti-piracy.'" It may be that China will do what China will do, but for much of the world Internet policy is a work in progress, and the signals the U.S. sends matter a great deal in how those policies will be written.

Leslie Harris is the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology

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