The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

82° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Websites protest piracy bill

    Pro: Internet protest is a good tool to fight for access to information.

    Wednesday’s online protest was a positive and progressive attempt to stop the government from controlling our virtual space and our main sources of knowledge. Many popular Internet sites, such as Wikipedia.com, shut down their services for the entire day in protest of two anti-piracy bills that now sit in front of Congress.

    The Internet is the driving force of modern technology. It can spread knowledge faster than any newspaper, any one person or any book. Restricting the content shown on the Internet would be a restriction of our knowledge.

    By shutting down its site for a day, Wikipedia showed proponents of these bills how valuable the Internet is. Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia available and was built to empower us with knowledge. Even senators Google and use Wikipedia.

    Granted, the government is probably only trying to restrict piracy over the Internet, but it’s a slippery slope. The bill would let a special government group decide what needs to be restricted. Content such as pornography, violence and rude language is all open on the Internet to anyone who has access to a computer or smartphone. However, that should be available to anyone and the government shouldn’t have the power to act as “parental guidance” for Americans.

    The Internet isn’t just used to exchange illegal content; it can support a movement and change history. Libya began its 2011 revolution because Facebook and Twitter allowed for oppressed and angry citizens to communicate faster and on a mass level.

    The fact that a flood of Americans, and websites, are taking a stand and being active in this protest is extremely positive. This bill needs to be stopped, and citizens standing up to the government is a positive message for the future. People who are protesting on Twitter and signing petitions are showing that the government can’t act as a censoring policeman. If there were no outcry to stop this bill then the government would probably believe that it’s OK to censor even more valuable content and further restrict access.

    The best part of this protest is that it’s about virtual space. The government is attempting to control something that they don’t and they can’t own. So what this protest is really about is taking back what we as users control and own. Users have always been responsible for what goes on the Internet and what we choose to view. The Internet is a mutual space that we have always peacefully used. Sites like Google and Reddit are essentially trying to stop the government from colonizing the Internet, and that’s commendable.

    — Luke Davis is a pre-journalism sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

    Con: Websites are using the wrong tactics to get their messages out.

    The Internet protests are a self-defeating measure that might ultimately do more harm than good to the protesters’ cause. Closing down websites to speak out against proposed measure in Congress is certainly a powerful statement. However, the citizens of our country rely heavily on the Internet, especially Wikipedia, one of the most visible protesters. Turning off such resources would certainly cause a lot of harm. But who, exactly, are the ones being harmed? Wikipedia, and the Internet in general, are more of a young person’s purview. If the idea behind the protests is to reiterate their point by harming what are their main supporters, then they will likely be successful. It seems unlikely, however, that any of the major supporters of the measures before Congress will be adversely affected.

    One might argue that it is a self-sacrificing protest similar to the public immolation in Tunisia that led to the Arab Spring. This cyber-immolation, however, does not have the capability of generating a similar reaction. An extreme act of that nature is designed primarily to sway those that have not chosen a side. Protest of some type seems perfectly legitimate to that end, but shutting down access to one’s services runs the significant risk of alienating the undecided. A killing is understood in full context by all, but a website blackout is less clear to many who use the Internet but are unfamiliar with its intricacies.

    For those who don’t completely understand the issues at stake, a bill that limits Internet freedom may actually seem attractive after experiencing perceived abuses of power by cyber protestors. The fearful are always driven to trade liberty for security, and Internet protests of this type set a dangerous precedent of scaring the uninitiated. Finally, the protests seem counterintuitive to the stated goals of the protesters. Activists against the measures are concerned about threats to free speech and the possibility of censorship. Shutting down websites, even for 24 hours, smacks of censorship and speech limitation. One can argue that the protests give Internet users a taste of the bleak future to come if the measures aren’t stopped.

    But why adopt the tactics of the “enemy” at all? Why not fight permanent censorship with, instead of temporary censorship, a more comprehensive information campaign that has protest characteristics? The protesters have a more than legitimate complaint that needs to be made, and quickly. But the way they’re protesting is perhaps less than effective means of doing so.

    — Andrew J. Conlogue is a junior studying philosophy, politics, economics and law. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search