Social Networks Urge You to Share then They Censor

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First social networking sites would encourage you to share more, wanting you to help make the world more open. Then they would start censoring contents, thus limiting visibility of posts that are supposed to be available and open for everyone to see.

With Twitter censoring tweets and Google favoring its own products with “Search Plus your World” and Facebook changing the interface without giving its users the option to opt out or retain the current settings,  the quality of user experience are actually deteriorating instead of their supposed goals of improving.

The social networking giants convince us into giving them data – which they could eventually capitalize and monetize on –  and since the use of their product is free, its users don’t have the last word when they eventually start on altering the search results and algorithms to fit their profit game plan and favor their advertisers.

Well I guess it’s true that when offered with something free, you are the one being sold.

It looks like users are now being caught up between the social network wars and their aggressive efforts to monetize.

With these changes, plus the pressure brought by  SOPA, it feels that the world is becoming more restricted and closed instead of the original purpose of these social networks – making the world more open profitable.

SOPA is Dead…At Least for 2012

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What is SOPA and what, there’s also PIPA?

Most people might have seen a mention of SOPA from their Facebook and Twitter friends by now but may not have fully understood the dire effects and dangers of the said bill. The Wall Street Journal has released a comprehensive guide for us to better understand the two bills and below are some of the highlights:

It will undermine free speech and due process, says one side. It will protect America’s creative class from thieves, says the other. But what’s really in the Stop Online Piracy Act?

There are actually two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act, known as SOPA, in the House and sister legislation called the Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act, or PIPA, in the Senate. Both are designed to tackle the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products.

To better explain what SOPA is, below is a helpful infographic from American Censorship.

Why is SOPA Dangerous?

Chris Heald through Mashable has released a helpful list of reasons why is SOPA dangerous and you may want to read the full text of the bill, as of Jan. 15, 2012. In a technical examination of SOPA [click the link to see the copy of the bill] and PROTECT IP by Jason Harvey, he explained what type of websites will be considered domestic and foreign and why these  legislations do not actually stop piracy but people’s liberty.

Could SOPA and PIPA Rise from Dead?

While SOPA may be dead and PIPA postponed, there’s a great possibility that it will rise again. SUNY Geneseo Political Science Dept. Professor and Chair Jeffrey Koch said that, “I think that it is dead,”. But then he added, “It’s dead for the rest of the year. Especially in an election year; anything that generates this level of controversy.” At least for 2012, SOPA and PIPA may be dead, but the chances of them rising from the tomb – in the forms of other bills, is high.

In response to a letter sent to Maria Cantwell, United States Senator from the state of Washington and a member of the Democratic Party, she revealed that she even co-sponsored a bill called OPEN (apparently the opposite of what the name implies). She wrote:

On December 17, 2011, Senator Wyden introduced the “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade” (OPEN) Act (S. 2029), of which I am an original co-sponsor. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is currently awaiting further review. The OPEN Act is a more effective approach to stopping foreign web sites that are found to be primarily and willfully used to infringe intellectual property rights. The OPEN Act builds on the existing legal framework used by the International Trade Commission for addressing unfair acts in the importation of articles into the United States, or in their sale for importation, or sale within the United States after importation.

Yes, SOPA and PIPA may be dead..at least for 2012, but it could rise again or take the form of other bills such as OPEN, which will effectively shut down a lot of foreign sites, like Pirate Bay. Congress is not relenting, they will continue to push Internet regulation under different bills until they succeed. OPEN does exactly the opposite of its name, it censors the net!

ACTA is Creeping

And while the world focused on the temporary death of SOPA and suspension of PIPA and not quite recovering from the discovery of OPEN, another leech legislation is set to suck liberty and privacy from its internet users.

In an article by Zack Whittaker, he explained how ACTA affects the normal internet users:

If you thought SOPA and PIPA were bad, ACTA is in an entirely different league of its own. ACTA may not order a mass culling of kittens, or declare war on China, but it will have a massive impact on trade, copyright, and intellectual property rights.
Initially it was thought that ACTA would enable governments to effectively work together in tandem across borders to prevent counterfeit goods, like medicines and knock-off technology goods for example, from entering the market. The Act aims to protect the economy and end-consumers’ confidence.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that though the ACTA name uses the word “counterfeiting” in its title, it vastly focuses on the transfer of copyrighted materials online. The agreement will make it easier for law enforcement and ISPs (’intermediaries’) to monitor consumers, and impose new criminal sanctions on those who flout copyright and patent laws.

Is ACTA a law?

No, it is neither a law nor a treaty. ACTA is a “trade agreement”, which allows countries to work in alignment on certain matters. It is similar to SOPA/PIPA in that it will battle copyright infringement, but expand to patents, counterfeit goods and intellectual property rights.
What is ACTA?

ACTA stands for the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”. First announced in late 2007, the U.S., the EU, Switzerland, and Japan said they would negotiate a new intellectual property enforcement agreement to counter the illegal counterfeit goods trade across borders.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also explained the dangers of this new legislation.

ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers’ privacy and civil liberties for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet legitimate commerce and for developing countries’ ability to choose policy options that best suit their domestic priorities and level of economic development.

With SOPA, PIPA, OPEN, ACTA and who knows that these bill makers are going to come up, it’s evident that they’re not going to stop. One bill after another. If you live in the United States, please contact your Senators. Email them today. Click here for a complete list of ways for you to contact your senator or local representatives. Simply select which state you are in to be directed.