Alexandra Bruce
June 30, 2015

On January 18, 2012 over 7,000 websites, including Wikipedia and Google protested SOPA and PIPA, some by “going dark” or by posting information about these Bills on their landing pages to educate visitors.

In January 2012. SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, two controversial pieces of legislation were making their way through the US Congress. The bills were drafted on request of the content industry, Hollywood studios and major record labels and were meant to crack down on the illegal sharing of digital media.

Opponents to the bills had concerns that the Bills’ passage would give the government powerful censorship tools that could threaten free speech.

In protest, in the English-language version of Wikipedia (then, the world’s 5th largest website) went dark from midnight January 18th until midnight January 19th, with information about SOPA and PIPA posted, encouraging visitors to contact their representatives in Congress in place of its usual encyclopedia entries. Many other large websites followed suit, including the biggest website in the world, Google, which posted a link to information about the proposed legislation.

But it was only one win in a long battle between US authorities and online users over internet regulation.

The US government says it must be able to fight against piracy and cyber attacks. And that means imposing more restrictions online. But proposed legislation could seriously curb freedom of speech and privacy, threatening the Internet as we know it.

As Quinn Norton, former girlfriend of the late Internet prodigy, Adam Swartz and a journalist who covers the Internet, hacker culture, Anonymous, intellectual property and copyright issues says here, that legally, on the Internet (at least for now), “…there really isn’t any difference… between copyright violation and speech. So anything you do to restrict copyright violation is also a restriction on speech.”

Can and should the internet be controlled? Who gets that power? How far will the US government go to gain power over the web? And will this mean the end of a free and global internet?

Fault Lines looks at the fight for control of the web, age and the threat to cyber freedom, asking if US authorities are increasingly trying to regulate user freedoms in the name of national and economic security.

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