Misguided efforts to combat online privacy have been threatening to stifle innovation, suppress free speech, and even, in some cases, undermine national security. As of yesterday, though, there's a lot less to worry about.
At issue are two related bills: the Senate's Protect IP Act and the even more offensive Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, both of which are generated intense opposition from tech giants and First Amendment advocates. The first sign that the bills' prospects were dwindling came Friday, when SOPA sponsors agreed to drop a key provision that would have required service providers to block access to international sites accused of piracy.
The legislation ran into an even more significant problem yesterday when the White House announced its opposition to the bills. Though the administration's chief technology officials officials acknowledged the problem of online privacy, the White House statement presented a fairly detailed critique of the measures and concluded, "We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet." It added that any proposed legislation "must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet."
Until now, the Obama administration had not taken a position on the issue. The response was published yesterday as part of the online "We The People" petition initiative launched by the White House last year.
Though the administration did issue a formal veto threat, the White House's opposition signaled the end of these bills, at least in their current form.
A few hours later, Congress shelved SOPA, putting off action on the bill indefinitely.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said early Saturday morning that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised him the House will not vote on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) unless there is consensus on the bill.It's possible that a related version of SOPA could come back at some point down the road - though probably not this year - but for now, the push against the bill has succeeded beautifully.
"While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House," Issa said in a statement. "Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote."
Steve Benen is a freelance writer and editor of The Carpetbagger Report.