Congress wants to censor you

China has long been a political target for members of Congress -- whether they criticize their government’s trade policies, or the way they regulate free speech. While members of Congress are quick to point fingers at China, they themselves are considering legislation that would do just as the Chinese government does – heavily regulate free speech, and hammer entrepreneurship on the Internet.

The Internet Censorship bills (SOPA & PIPA) currently being debated in Congress could give the government the power to turn off parts of the Internet. If anyone uploads copyrighted material to a site like YouTube or on a blog, the website in question could be punished by being removed from search engine results, banned from online advertising networks, and blocked from payment processing networks. 

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In addition, the legislation could make the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, such as a song, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. If this was the law of the land today, Justin Bieber would not be famous for his pop songs, but rather for potentially taking down YouTube and being thrown in prison.

MoveOn’s 6 million members are empowered by an open Internet that enables them to share ideas and media, drive news stories, and engage on issues they care about. The open lines of communication and opportunities they provide are at serious risk. That’s why MoveOn is joining websites like Reddit, Mozilla, Tumblr, Wikipedia, and thousands of others in a massive Internet blackout today. We are blacking out our website in protest and directing visitors to learn more about the dangerous censorship legislation pending in Congress, and how they can take action to stop it.

Many of the nation’s leading online companies, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo! have also come out in opposition to the bills and their egregious overreach. The White House recently responded to grassroots petitions opposing the Internet censorship bills stating, "We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet." Furthermore, many cyber-security experts, including Rep. Langevin, the Co-Chairman of the Cyber Security Caucus, have warned that the legislation could greatly undercut our nation’s cyber-security. Many experts contend that the Internet Censorship bills could potentially expose millions of Americans to fraud, and pose a serious risk to the nation’s cyber-security on a global scale.

The co-sponsors of the bills in the House and Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, are playing fast and loose with one of the most innovative and job-creating industries of our time. The Internet Censorship bills could forever change the way Americans and small businesses use the Internet, and ring in a new era of censorship that Americans have never seen before. Members of Congress would be wise to take a step back and examine more thoughtfully what this legislation would actually do to the functionality of the internet, and how it could threaten cyber-security, and slow technology innovation. 

Justin Ruben is Executive Director of MoveOn.org.