It’s really quite stunning to watch Lamar Smith pull out really out-dated talking points as he gets more and more desperate to defend SOPA, as he discovers that all the vaunted “support” that the US Chamber of Commerce promised him there was for the bill melts away. We’ve already gone through Smith’s detailed “defense” of the bill and pointed out that nearly all of it was based on either false or misleading research. And what’s worse is that Smith obviously knows this: he specifically cherry picks studies to support his position. In fact, he uses studies produced by lobbyists over the ones produced by the government, when the government ones show that the entire basis for SOPA is faulty. The only reason to do that is because you know the actual facts don’t support your position.
His latest move is to pretend that the only opposition to SOPA comes from Google.
There is nothing that would require Internet service providers or bloggers to “censor” the Internet.
Since there is no basis for their complaints, one wonders what the bill’s critics are really worried about. Perhaps they don’t want to be held accountable for directing consumers to illegal websites. We know that’s the case with Google.
There’s so much wrong in just that little section, it’s really quite incredible. First of all, the first statement is an outright fabrication. The entire point of the bill is to censor parts of the internet. Smith is trying to pretend that because the censorship is about stopping infringement, it’s not censorship, but that’s simply false. The government telling internet sites that they have to block access to other websites is — undeniably — censorship. If Smith were being intellectually honest, he would admit that and then we could have a nice discussion on whether or not this form of censorship makes sense. But, instead, he pretends that it’s not censorship.
As for the next sentence, there is a very real basis for the complaints, and pretending there isn’t is just ridiculous. Yes, it’s true that some people have exaggerated some of the claims, but part of the problem here is actually Smith himself. His first version of SOPA was so bad and contained so many awful things that many people still think his latest version contains those things. Perhaps if he had taken the time to invite people who actually understand the internet to the table, he wouldn’t be fending off the complaints of his original bill at this time.
But that also leaves out that there are, still, tremendous legitimate concerns with the bill, and that explains the widespread outrage.
- The online security concerns are extremely real and legitimate. Every single credible technology and security expert has agreed on this point. To date, Smith has been unable to find a singleindependent security expert to back up his side of the argument. He’s found two or three think tank “policy analysts” who don’t understand the technology issues in play (and it’s amusing to watch them run for the hills any time a real DNS engineer shows up), but there has yet to be a single credible technologist to say that provisions in the bill for blocking sites won’t do harm to years of careful work on internet security.
- The State Department remains horrified at the message this bill sends to the rest of the world, as they are trying to push the concept of internet freedom to country’s with oppressive governments. Even if the purpose of the blocking in the US is quite different, the bill alone gives foreign repressive regimes the perfect blueprint for repressing free speech in a way that the US can’t protest: just say you’re going after infringement, and the US can’t complain.
- The threat of collateral damage against legitimate sites is extraordinarily real. It’s so real we have clear evidence of it happening at home, in the case of Dajaz1.com. Or with the death of Veoh. Or with the very fact that SOPA supporters continue to claim that RapidShare is one of the key sites they seek to kill via SOPA, despite it being declared legalin both the US and Europe.
- Finally, there’s the fact that all of the evidence suggests that SOPA won’t actually help to either stop infringement or to get people to pay more for content. Considering the widespread collateral damage, when all of the evidence suggests that the bill itself won’t actually help solve the specific problem it’s supposedly targeting, isn’t that a cause for a concern?
But rather than address any of those (or many other legitimate) concerns with the bill, Smith falls back on the talking point he was given at the beginning of this: the only company who doesn’t want this is Google and that’s because Google profits from illegal activity. Neither statement is accurate.
First of all, hundreds upon hundreds of companies have come out against the bill — including supposed “supporters” on the list that Smith’s own staff at the House Judiciary Committee put out, claiming they supported the bill. The idea that these are all driven by Google is hilarious. On top of that, Smith is being downright insulting to the hundreds of thousands of people who have written and called Congress to express their displeasure with the bill. They weren’t doing so because Google wants to profit from illegal activity online, but because they’re legitimately worried about the bill.
Certainly, back over the summer when Hollywood told Smith he had to take the bill away from Rep. Goodlatte and put in all of their favorite concepts to censor the internet, the most vocal opposition had come from Google. But since then, pretty much the entire tech industry has risen up to point out the problems of the bill. And, even worse for Smith, so have many in the creative community. We have movie and TV stars, along with best selling authors. We’ve seen more and more in the creative community itself speak out against this bill, because they recognize that they use and rely on the internet as well.
The truth is that the remaining “support” for the bill has been reduced to a few big (but shrinking) companies in a legacy industry who have chosen not to adapt to changing times. And while all of this is happening, the people in that same industry who aren’t tied down looking at the past are adapting and making tons of money.
The basic fact of the situation is that Lamar Smith is wrong in almost everything he argues here. He’s wrong about what the bill is. He’s wrong about whether or not it’s needed. He’s wrong about the impact of the bill. He’s wrong about the opposition. He’s wrong about the criticism. The public is recognizing most of this. Smith’s decision to double down on the old story that this is just about Google is a sign of a sad politician lashing out because his plan to help his biggest campaign contributors is being seen for what it is: a government hand out to a few Hollywood fat cats too lazy to adapt… and all done at the expense of the one part of the economy that has continued to grow and to shine: the internet.