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Act Now to Stop SOPA/PIPA Assaults on Free Speech

Two bills pending in Congress could give corrupt businesses and officials the power to silence whistleblowers with little or no due process.

Other articles this website describe the struggles of whistleblowers to expose wrongdoing in government and business–wrongdoing that negatively affects all of our lives.  The articles also describe how wrongdoers strike back at whistleblowers using whatever tactics–legal or illegal–they can muster.  But, if Congress passes two pending bills, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect IP Act of 2011), businesses would have a new and more powerful tool enabling them to have whistle blowing websites blacklisted.

Businesses could have websites blacklisted simply by accusing the owners of publishing, or simply linking, to information covered by copyright or trademark. Potentially, that information could consist of documents, images, or video that provides evidence of wrongdoing reported by whistleblowers.  The law also proposes to imprison those who publish or link to such material. Government officials could use the law to silence whistle blowing websites, indirectly, by having contractors make file complaints on their behalf.

Three law professors have written an article explaining the many dangers inherent in the bill.

Websites can be “completely removed from circulation”—rendered unreachable by, and invisible to, Internet users in the United States and abroad—immediately upon application by the government, without anyreasonable opportunity for the owner or operator of the website in question to be heard or to present evidence on his or her own behalf. This falls far short of what the Constitution requires before speech can be eliminated from public circulation.

As serious as these infirmities are, SOPA, the House’s bill, builds upon them, enlarges them, and makes them worse. Under SOPA, IP rights holders can proceed vigilante-style against allegedly offending sites, without any court hearing or any judicial intervention or oversight whatsoever. (Stanford Law Review)

Today, many internet websites have temporarily gone dark in protest of this dangerous legislation.  We decided to darken our background in solidarity but to keep our articles visible so that readers can see what they stand to lose if Congress passes SOPA/PIPA.  If you agree with us that the legislation should not pass, please email, tweet, call or fax your members of Congress today.

Photo by David Shankbone @Flickr Creative Commons