Nightmare on the Interwebs

Alexandra Petri isn’t the only one having nightmares:

Last night I had a horrifying dream that a group of well-intentioned middle-aged people who could not distinguish between a domain name and an IP address were trying to regulate the Internet. Then I woke up and the Judiciary Committee’s SOPA hearings were on.

It’s exactly as we feared. For every person who appears to have some grip on the issue, there were three or four yelling at him.

The experts testifying for SOPA and promising that SOPA won’t be disastrous to the internet, admit they don’t know anything about how it works.  The experts on the Web are the folks claiming an end to to the web as we know it.  Who do we believe Spielberg who makes Billions making movies, or the folks who actually built the internet?

There ought to be a law, I think, that in order to regulate something you have to have some understanding of it. And when people are saying things like, “This is just the rogue foreign Web sites” and “This only targets the bad actors” and “So you want universities to host illegal pirated versions of copyrighted content?,” it’s enough to make you claw out large fistfuls of your hair. No! No! Nobody is hosting anything. This bill would require service providers to cut off access to entire Web sites where users are deemed to be engaging in copyright infringement, not take down stolen content they posted themselves. That’s already against the law. But no one seemed to be able to express this.

When you have a signed letter from the engineers responsible for creating the Internet pointing out that this bill would jeopardize our cybersecurity, balkanize the Internet and create a climate of uncertainty that would stifle innovation, it seems odd to ignore it. As a general rule, when the people saying that this will have a horrible, chilling impact on something are the ones who created that thing in the first place, and the people who are saying, “Oh, no, it’ll be fine, it only targets the bad actors” are members of the Motion Picture Association of America, it seems obvious whose opinion you should heed.

The problem is the folks with the most influence at the capital aren’t the people with the most knowledge, but the folks willing to spend the moist money for their cause.

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