How SOPA Could Have Hindered Our Democracy Promotion Efforts

From the New Republic:

When the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were put on hold late this week, many had cause to celebrate, including Internet companies, free speech advocates, and the millions who signed petitions against the bills. Their objections have been well enumerated: The bills do nothing to meaningfully reduce, let alone stop, online piracy; their proposed regulations would shut down fair exchange on the Internet; and they threatened to completely disable websites that host user-generated content, like Facebook and YouTube.

Yet there was another, related, but underappreciated potential consequence of SOPA and PIPA: damage to U.S. foreign policy objectives. For one, there’s the issue of perception, as recent U.S. policy focuses on promoting global Internet freedom. In a December 8, 2011 conference on Internet freedom at The Hague, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that “The United States wants the Internet to remain a space where economic, political, and social exchanges flourish. To do that, we need to protect people who exercise their rights online, and we also need to protect the Internet itself from plans that would undermine its fundamental characteristics.”

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Photo courtesy of eurleif, flickr