The cyber war escalated to a whole new level yesterday. The U.S. government shut down the popular website MegaUpload at the behest of corporate interests. The Feds accused MegaUpload of stealing $500 million in potential lost revenue from copyright holders.
Almost immediately, the hacktivist group Anonymous retaliated by launching massive DDoS attacks on several websites including the US Copyright Office, Department of Justice, FBI.gov, Universal Music Group, Music Picture Association of America, and the Recording Industry Association of America. The attack called “Operation MegaUpload” is also said to be targeting Whitehouse.gov.
Many Internet freedom and privacy activists are cheering Anonymous’ assault against the U.S. Government and the corporate interests that control it. But I’m getting the eerie feeling that Anonymous is playing right into the hands of those who wish to control and censor the Internet.
First, I must state unequivocally that the U.S. government and the copyright holders are clearly the aggressors in this war. Their actions violate current copyright laws where the content providers must prove damages in the court of law before they can sabotage and ransack a business they accuse of stealing. Even though a grand jury supposedly indicted MegaUpload, it’s nearly impossible for them to prove “potential lost revenue” since those engaged in file sharing cannot automatically be considered lost customers.
Because of this conundrum, copyright holders instead lobbied the government to change the laws to legalize this form of censorship through blunt force and without due process. It seems that since the sought-after legislation, SOPA, has been recently shelved due to universal protest, the State was compelled to act above the law to destroy those sharing information on the Web.
Even more suspicious is that some of the chief copyright holders pushing for these new guilty-until-proven-innocent laws were the ones who developed, promoted, and profited from file sharing in the first place. Again, it’s all beginning to feel like a set-up designed to justify Internet censorship, which is clearly the end game for the powers that be.
Thus the cyber war seems to be heading in the same direction as all literal and figurative wars do. Let’s remember that the public never wins in war. War always justifies atrocities against freedom and proves devastating for infrastructure. Fighting fire with fire very rarely results in anything but destruction. And it’s far easier to destroy something than to create a solution.
I hate to say it, but even if Anonymous are genuine activists, they seem to be acting like sophomoric thugs smashing store windows in a tantrum believing it to be an effective way to fight back. Does anyone truly believe that the government and the corporate forces that control it are going to lay down their arms because Anonymous is breaking windows that can be quickly replaced?
The reason SOPA was shelved was because of peaceful, voluntary activism. The left and the right united to oppose the legislation on principle and notified their elected officials not to support it, while prominent businesses voluntarily blacked out their websites in protest. Now we must turn our resolve to its sister legislation, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) set for a vote on January 24th.
If history tells us anything, this escalation will only justify more abusive action on both sides that may ultimately result in a tightly controlled Internet as the only “solution” to the anarchy. Ideas of freedom can win without destroying things. Let's unite once again to make sure the PIPA legislation is also defeated or delayed.
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