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Article posted Jun 24 2012, 2:43 PM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: Techdirt Print

Congressional Staffer Says SOPA Protests 'Poisoned The Well', Failure To Pass Puts Internet At Risk

by Mike Masnick

Yikes. About a month ago, we wrote about some comments by Congressional staffer Stephanie Moore, the "Democrat's chief counsel on the House Judiciary Committee," in which she still couldn't come to grips with the fact that the public rose up against SOPA -- insisting that it must have been some nefarious "misinformation" campaign. We went through, in a fair amount of detail, how the misinformation was coming from her. It appears that Moore has decided to go even further down this path and express her general distaste for the public. During a panel discussion at the American Constitution Society's 2012 National Convention, covered by BNA, Moore was a panelist and apparently decided to totally mock the public and make the ridiculous claim that the failure to pass SOPA puts the internet at risk:
“Netizens poisoned the well, and as a result the reliability of the internet is at risk,” Moore said
Think about that for a second. That entire sentence is so incredibly insulting. Millions of people spoke out against bad legislation. The public spoke out, and Moore is so against the basic concept of democracy that she has to claim that millions of people expressing their political opinion is "poisoning the well." And how in the hell is "the reliability of the internet at risk" because Congress failed to pass a horrifically bad piece of legislation aimed at censoring sites one industry didn't like? Please.

The report goes on to a bunch of additional insulting comments from Moore towards the public, including the claim that "We don't know what the numbers mean," regarding the number of people who contacted Congress on January 18th. Here, I'll help you out: it means that a very large segment of the American population realized you were trying to push through a bad bill as a favor to some big Hollywood donors, and they didn't like it. What was so hard to understand about that?

On the same panel was lawyer Steve Metalitz, who represents a number of entertainment industry interests, and whom many people have suggested has had a major hand in the creation of SOPA/PIPA/ACTA and other such proposals. He also had some ridiculous things to say, including supporting the idea that DNS blocking was no problem. His reasoning? Lots of other countries censor the internet, why shouldn't the US? I'm not kidding:
“Most countries in the world already have this option at their disposal to deal with this problem,” Metalitz said during the ACS discussion. “If site blocking broke the internet, then the internet would already be broken.”
Metalitz is wrong. Either his misinformed or he's lying. Even SOPA supporters admitted that there are only thirteen countries that enable DNS blocking. That's not "most." Oh, and the thirteen? China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Burma (Myanmar), Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. This is not a list that we should want the US to be added to. And he's being disingenuous in saying that "the internet would already be broken." No one claimed that the internet as a whole would stop working if you put DNS blocking in place. But every single competent security technology expert pointed out that it would have significant negative impact on how important security systems would work. Hell, even Comcast (owner of NBC Universal -- the main corporate backer of SOPA) admitted that DNS blocking was incompatible with important DNS security technologies.

Who do we trust? A lawyer with zero computer security/networking knowledge, or pretty much every security expert around? Sorry, but I vote with the experts.

According to the report, Metalitz and Moore then teamed up to misrepresent the free speech concerns that people had about SOPA. They did so by insisting there were no such concerns and that the First Amendment and copyright law could not be in conflict:
Similarly, Metalitz said that the opposition's argument that “copyright means censorship is simply untrue.” He added, “I understand that in debates like this there is going to be over simplification, but this is a dangerous one for those that care about free expression.”

Moore agreed that the free speech concerns were misplaced. “The First Amendment argument is not appropriate in this context,” Moore said. “The First Amendment is part of copyright. They are not in tension.”
Thankfully, it sounds like there was strong pushback in the audience from folks like professor Lateef Mtima, but really, both Moore and Metalitz are once again being totally disingenuous. No one said that copyright itself means censorship. They said that overly broad copyright laws can and are used for censorship. This is not a hypothetical. We've already seen how Russia specifically used copyright law to stifle political speech from opponents. And right here in the US, we have the unfortunate story of the federal government censoring popular hip hop blogs for over a year by falsely accusing them of copyright infringement, shutting them down, and then denying them their day in court.

Frankly, both Moore and Metalitz owe those blog owners an apology. But, of course, no one involved in that situation has ever apologized. Much better to just flat out deny that copyright could ever be used for censorship. Here in the real world, that's called being in denial. You can't deny facts, but both Moore and Metalitz seem to have spent this entire panel doing exactly that.

Either way, given their roles in supporting SOPA and their refusal to understand the concerns against it, it seems likely that we haven't seen the last of horrible, dangerous legislation and international trade agreements from people like Moore and Metalitz.





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