David Segal and Aaron Swartz
When it really matters to them, Congressmembers can come together — with a panache and wry wit you didn’t know they had. As banned books week gets underway, and President Obama admonishes oppressive regimes for their censorship of the Internet, a group of powerful Senators — Republicans and Democrats alike — have signed onto a bill that would vastly expand the government’s power to censor the Internet.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) was introduced just one week ago, but it’s greased and ready to move, with a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee this Thursday. If people don’t speak out, US citizens could soon find themselves joining Iranians and Chinese in being blocked from accessing broad chunks of the public Internet.
COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.