Online security at heart of SOPA debates
With internet giants like Wikipedia and Google expressing their opposition to the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, the legislation has been catapulted into the consciousness of the American public. Although the conversation has touched on everything from freedom of speech to economic recovery, the fundamental concerns for online security may be getting overlooked in the polarizing debate.
SOPA is primarily intended as a crucial update to intellectual property regulation. Outdated policies have buckled under the strain of technological innovation, and current statutes have done little to address the emerging threat of digital piracy. As a result, lawmakers are attempting to evolve legislation to curb counterfeiting and provide 21st century businesses and entrepreneurs with the copyright protections they deserve.
However, the sprawling nature of the matter has made it difficult for Congress to satisfy the expectations of all stakeholders. Federal authorities are seeking additional powers that would allow them to root out infringing websites, but many fear that overreaching legislation could compromise the online activities of legitimate companies and innocent individuals.
Perhaps the most objective argument against the bill came from the online security community, which claimed that SOPA provisions would tamper with and disrupt some of the fundamental security and privacy protections embedded in the internet's base architecture.
These concerns were recently validated by White House officials responding to a citizen-lead petition.
"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet," White House officials explained. "Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the internet through manipulation of the domain name system (DNS), a foundation of internet security."
But according to eWeek, even the removal of DNS filtering provisions would not comprehensively address security concerns. Opponents still contest that an unfair burden will be placed on website administrators to monitor their content for infringing material. Additionally, there could be a surge in frivolous takedown requests, forcing businesses to defend their actions or risk shutting down operations.
The implications of overly broad legislation are particularly serious for websites like Wikipedia, Reddit and Twitter that rely heavily on user-generated content. According to the news source, these sites could be forced to take time away from other essential administrative functions to assess the merits of each and every message or post.