CISPA: Regulating The Internet

SOPA was just the first round of the federal government’s attempt to regulate the last bastion of freedom on earth–the internet. The inhabitants of this final frontier–the netizens–stomped this freedom grabbing bill down in the dust. Even mainstream internet destinations opposed this overstep of authority; the Google homepage urged viewers to contact their Reps and Senators about the detriments of regulating the internet. Wikipedia blacked out their pages for a day in opposition to the bill, suggesting SOPA itself would mean an effective blackout of information. Facebook was abuzz with rhetoric about preventing the government from controlling the information on the web, as they control the information on Television. But now SOPA’s sinister cousin lurks in the legislature: CISPA is the latest attempt to regulate our internet.

CISPA, by contrast [to SOPA], would allow Americans’ personal information to be vacuumed up by government agencies for cybersecurity and law enforcement purposes, as long as Internet and telecommunications companies agreed. In that respect, at least, its impact is broader. (Full Article).

Sold as a way to increase cyber-security and assure cyber-terrorism’s demise, CISPA would give private companies and government agencies free reign to monitor and share our online activities and communications without a warrant, and without our consent. This has already passed the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support, but Republicans introduced the bill and comprised the majority of yea votes. 206 Republicans and 42 Democrats successfully passed the bill, while 28 Republicans, and 140 Democrats opposed it. The bill will now move to the Senate where majority leader Harry Reid says CISPA will be considered in the spring of 2013.

Ron Paul was one Republican House member to oppose the bill, as he generally sides with freedom and constitutional limitations on federal power. Paul writes that Libertarian minded Constitutionalists and adherents to the Austrian School of Economics especially oppose internet regulation, because never before has the information they desire been so readily available and easily shared. Many fear that regulation of the internet would be a way to silence dissent and government criticism. I would argue this is quite likely if the government is given power over the internet–just look at the news on Television these days (or lack of news). On his Congressional Website, Ron Paul warns of the dangers of CISPA.

One such attempt [to censor or limit the free flow of information online] is known as “CISPA”, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.   This bill will create a monstrous coalition of big business and big government to rob Americans of their protections under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.

CISPA permits both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications with no judicial oversight, provided they merely do so in the name of “cybersecurity.”  But America is a constitutional republic, not a surveillance state and the wildly overhyped need for security does not trump the Constitution.

“Cybersecurity” is the responsibility of companies that operate and make money in cyberspace, not taxpayers.  Those companies should develop market-based private solutions to secure their networks, servers, cloud data centers, and user/customer information.  The role of the US intelligence community is to protect the United States from military threats, not to provide corporate welfare to the private sector.  Much like the TSA at the airport, CISPA would socialize security costs and remove market incentives for private firms to protect their own investments.

Imagine security-cleared agents embedded at private companies to serve as conduits for intelligence information about their customers back to the US intelligence community– while enjoying immunity from any existing civil or criminal laws. Imagine Google or Facebook reporting directly to the National Security Agency about the online activity of US citizens.  Imagine US government resources being wasted on a grand scale to “assist” private companies in the global market.  All of this would become reality under CISPA.

Paul goes on to note that even if CISPA does not pass the Senate, Obama has suggested that an Executive order would be issued to the same effect. To continue reading about CISPA in more detail, click here.

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