CISPA is not the new SOPA: Here’s why

cispa-sopa-2Yesterday, I wrote that “the Internet has a new enemy,” and its name is CISPA, short for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011. And it’s true: this poorly crafted piece of “cybersecurity” legislation is irking concerned Web citizens the world over.

Using our Chartbeat analytics tool, I saw wave after wave of users flood into the article, from all parts of the globe. North Dakota, Sweden, Portugal, Mexico, New York — everybody, it seems, is interested and concerned about this bill that critics (rightly) believe could threaten the types of information we can access online, as well as our privacy and freedom of speech.

In less than 24 hours, a petition on Avaaz.org entitled, “Save the Internet from the US,” has racked up more than 300,000 signatures, asking the federal government to drop CISPA. By the time you read this article, that number will likely be well over half a million, or more. And the anti-CISPA movement already has its own hashtag, a sure sign of meme-ability, which is vital to any online campaign.

And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that the Internet community will lose this battle, that CISPA will pass — that there will be no blackout, this time around.

The first problem is the nature of the threat this bill poses: At its core, CISPA is about companies and the government sharing information. Now, to anyone concerned with privacy, this is a big issue, especially considering that CISPA places absolutely no explicit limits on the type of information that may be shared with the government, or between private companies, as long as it is somehow related to cyber threats. To me, and a lot of you, that’s terrifying.

For most people, however, sharing information about ourselves is just the way things work nowadays. We post every aspect of our lives online, from what we’re eating to our location to all the gritty details of last night. These companies already know all our secrets. In other words: privacy just ain’t what it used to be. And I just don’t see every Jack, Jill, and John getting their knickers in a knot over something that sounds like what they do on a regular basis — share information — or which many people believe is already happening: that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and every other Web company out there hands over our private information the second Uncle Sam looks at them funny. We are in Brave New World, not 1984.

Second — and this is the real problem — the CISPA opposition does not yet have the technology industry on its side. In fact, many of the most important players, the ones with the big scary guns, have already embedded themselves in the enemy’s camp. Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Intel, AT&T, Verizon — all of them (and many others) have already sent letters to congress voicing support for CISPA. And that should come as no surprise. Whereas SOPA and PIPA were bad for many companies that do business on the Internet, and burdened them with the unholy task of policing the Web (or facing repercussions if they didn’t), this bill makes life easier for them; it removes regulations and the risk of getting sued for handing over our information to The Law. Not to mention doing what the bill says it’s going to do: protecting them from cyber threats.

In short: Supporting CISPA is in these companies’ interest. Supporting SOPA/PIPA was not.

This means that the Internet community is on its own. No technology company is going to buy a full-page ad in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal condemning CISPA by their own volition— unless we somehow force them to. And the only way to do that is to set our sights on them first, and on the actual bill second.

Unfortunately, such a scenario creates a political problem for the CISPA opposition. By scrambling to get the Internet and technology industries on the side of the Internet users, it creates an opportunity for the bill’s many supporters in Washington to push forward without the hassle of a concerted resistance.

Now, I could very well be wrong about this. I hope I’m wrong — I hope all of you reading this prove me wrong. I would be absolutely giddy if everything I’ve just said is rendered moot by the shock and awe with which the CISPA opposition fights against this bill. CISPA is a terrible piece of legislation, one that very well could result in the government blocking access to websites on the basis of copyright infringement, or sites like Wikileaks under the guise of national security*. And just because I’m playing the defeatist doesn’t mean that the masses are incapable of rising up against CISPA, and bury it away in the catacombs of legislative hell — they, we, absolutely are. But until I see more than online petitions and Twitter hashtags, my bet is on the bad guys.

*Update: In a conference call with reporters on April 10, CISPA co-sponsors Reps. Mike Rogers and “Dutch” Ruppersberger said that CISPA does not give the government the authority to block access to any websites, which is true. What remains unclear, however, is whether the government may use information shared under CISPA to block access to sites for reasons of cyber security or national security.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Computing

I bought a four-year-old MacBook Pro instead of a new one. Here’s why

The new MacBook Pros have a ton of advantages over the older options, but when it came to buying a replacement machine for myself, I found myself returning to 2015 rather than picking up Apple's latest and greatest.
Opinion

Tim Cook said Silicon Valley built a chaos factory. Are Apple’s hands clean?

The King of Silicon Valley just called it a “chaos factory.” Giving a commencement speech at Stanford University, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized his fellow tech giants for disregarding the privacy of their customers.
Gaming

Cadence of Hyrule is the first truly amazing Zelda spinoff

Cadence of Hyrule is the first non-mainline Zelda game to capture the magic of the series. Blending catchy rhythm mechanics with top-down Zelda exploration, Brace Yourself Games has created one of the best games of 2019.
Movies & TV

Marvel’s Netflix universe is dead, but its legacy lives on

The end of Marvel's superhero universe on Netflix is a big deal for the streaming service, but this grand experiment had far-reaching effects that changed the streaming landscape for years to come.
Gaming

Epic Games really needs to properly address Fortnite crunch

Epic Games is closed for two weeks, but Fortnite updates are still arriving as usual. As the studio behind the most popular game on the planet, Epic needs to take a stand against crunch and promote healthy working conditions.
Computing

Nvidia's new Super graphics cards may have beaten AMD to the punch

New Nvidia Super graphics cards don't shake up the RTX formula much, but they do deliver the kind of performance that could give AMD's upcoming RX 5700 graphics cards serious cause for concern.
Computing

No, Apple isn’t moving toward a Mac App Store-only future. At least, not yet

Apple’s Mac App Store makes it a ton of money, and now rumors are swirling the company wants to turn it into a monopoly. Here’s why that’s a load of bologna.
Home Theater

Hulu’s new Seinfeld shuffle could (and should) be the future of streaming

Hulu's new idea to randomize Seinfeld is great, but it doesn't go far enough. If streamers really want to get our attention, offering new kinds of randomization like a playlist shuffle key could be the future.
Movies & TV

What Spider-Man: Far From Home reveals about Phase 4 of the MCU

Spider-Man: Far From Home brought Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close while offering a few clues about what to expect from the MCU in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame.
Home Theater

Netflix paid $100M to keep Friends, but viewers may pay the highest price

Netflix reportedly paid $100 million to keep '90s sitcom Friends on its service for another year, but the cost consumers might have to pay for access to their favorite shows and movies down the road could be much, much higher.
Computing

Facebook’s Libra could be dead on arrival, if India stands by its proposed ban

The government of India has announced that it is considering a ban on Facebook's new cryptocurrency, Libra. Without this key market, the success of the burgeoning cryptocurrency is in serious doubt.
Home Theater

How Amazon and Google’s streaming feud helped make Roku the streaming king

Amazon and Google are finally playing nice when it comes to streaming, with YouTube now available on Fire TV devices, and Amazon Prime Video available on Chromecast. Here's how remaining agnostic helped Roku leap ahead of the pack.
Home Theater

Netflix built a TV empire without ads. Here’s why it’s time to consider them

In an increasingly compacted and complex streaming landscape, Netflix is going to have to once again innovate to stay at the head of the pack. While adding commercials would be met with controversy, it could just be a saving grace.
Mobile

No, the Pixel 4’s bezels are not a major crime against smartphone design

Leaks have shown us what the Google Pixel may look like from the front, and the bezels around the screen have sent the masses into a panic, claiming the design is outdated and ugly. Except it's not, and here's why.