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It worked for China, why not the United States?

December 15, 2011 , , ,

This is the question that is before Congress as it
decides on what to do with the Domain Name Server filtering provisions in the
Stopping Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).  Public
Knowledge has advocated from the beginning against this provision because it
would make the Internet less secure, sacrifice our moral high ground
internationally, and to top it off it will do nothing to deter Internet
piracy.  So while many would experience revulsion at the idea of adopting
any tool that is used in the Great Firewall of China, the proponents of SOPA
and PIPA have in fact, embraced it.

In a recent interview with
Variety
, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and former U.S.
Senator Chris Dodd said “when
the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn’t do
[business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block
sites.”
  So in other words, since it worked in China, why not
the United States?  And despite all the opposition from government
agencies such as the Sandia
National Labs
, top experts
in cyber security
, think tanks such as the Brookings
Institute
 and the CATO
Institute
, former Bush Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Stewart
Baker
, industry associations such as the Messaging
Anti-Abuse Working Group
 and
the Anti-Phishing Working Groupseveral
dozen organizations
 focused on human rights and freedom of the press,
and more than one million
Americans
, the DNS filtering provision lives on.

To
be crystal clear (because it seems we have to repeat this every time), there
are parts of SOPA and PIPA that have support from PK, such as cutting off
advertising revenue and financial payments to the worst of the worst criminal
actors overseas.   But rather than come to a reasonable conclusion,
proponents of DNS filtering have double down on the tools of censorship by
arguing that they are in fact not the tools of censorship (despite every
censorship oriented regime in the world using them) and that they will in fact
be very effective at solving piracy.  Clearly the arguments of these
proponents must be based on empirical evidence if they feel so strongly about
Congress requiring DNS filtering to address Internet piracy.  So I invite
you to look at the evidence they have presented regarding the effectiveness of
putting in place DNS filters. 

In a
recent study popularized by the MPAA on Capitol Hill titled “PIPA/SOPA: Responding to
Critics and Finding a Path Forward,”
 a
rebuttal is issued to the argument that DNS filtering in the United States will
simply not deter piracy because people will migrate to non-filtered DNS systems
(which would create a serious cyber security problem).  The report
responds by saying it would be difficult for people to bypass filters because “users have a poor history of using these types
of tools in other countries where the government restricts access to certain
websites”
 and that only about “3 percent of Internet users” bypass
filters according to this
other study
.  Well clearly
something with a 97 percent track record is enormously effective and the United
States should absolutely adopt such a tool!  Right?

So
what countries belong to this list of 97 percent effectiveness cited in the
study supported by DNS filtering supporters?  They are the OpenNet Initiative’s list of 13 countries that engage in substantive
Internet filtering consisting of China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Armenia,
Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Burma (Myanmar), Syria, Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.  Quite the club the United States would take one
step closer to joining by implementing DNS filtering, right?  So if I am
to understand the argument by the supporters of DNS filtering, it will work
because it worked well in these 13 countries.  

So
will Americans have an open and secure Internet network (these are not mutually
exclusive) or will Congress adopt the tools of censorship that undermine secure
Internet communications?  The answer to that question is up to the public
and their 535 elected officials.  So please call your Representative and
two Senators
 and
let them know where you stand on SOPA and PIPA.