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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

what Google looks like from a U.S. IP address today

Google blackout

For the benefit of my non-U.S. readers.
The “Please don’t censor the web!” link goes here.

Reddit has a long piece up today examing SOPA and the Senate version, PROTECT IP, from a technical standpoint. Here’s one of the provisions that should worry everyone outside the U.S.: If, without any sort of due process, there’s even a suspicion that a non-U.S. site is engaging in anything remotely related to piracy or copyright infringment, the bills would:

Require U.S. sites and search engines to remove all links to the foreign site.

lest those U.S. sites also be considered in violation of the law. In practical terms, this means no U.S. site that does not want to get itself shut down by the U.S. government without any sort of due process must never link to any non-U.S. site, because who knows what sort of “objectionable” material may be on another site.

If you run a site outside the U.S. and you get traffic from Google, you can say goodbye to that traffic:

This would mean that search engines can be required to continually monitor and prevent new instances of links to foreign sites.

Google isn’t going to vet your site to ensure that nothing — absolutely nothing — that could even remotely be construed as violating copyright doesn’t reside at your site. It’s going to just remove your site from its index.

And are you sure your site — or a thousand other apparently non-U.S. sites you use all the time — won’t be considered a U.S. site subject to this law?

The concept of ‘domestic’ versus ‘foreign’ on the internet is complex. For example, reddit’s primary servers are located in Virginia, however we have domain names through foreign registrars (redd.it, reddit.co.uk). The site is hosted via a third-party content-delivery network (Akamai). This means that if you connect to reddit from a foreign country, you are likely connecting to an Akamai server not located in the U.S. This legislation naively ignores this complexity, and simply labels a site ‘foreign’ or ‘domestic’ based solely on the domain name.

The legislators sponsoring these bills have indicated that they are only targeted at truly foreign sites. However, the language is so loose and ignorant of what is truly a foreign site that there is a huge amount of room to argue what is actually “foreign”.

Wait, it gets worse:

The vague and technology-ignorant language in this pending legislation opens a huge number of doors for different interpretations. When you take this broad language and use it to grant powers to both the Attorney General and plaintiffs like the MPAA and RIAA, you create a system that is begging to be abused. Given the history of abuse of laws like the DMCA, it has become obvious that institutions like the RIAA can and will stretch laws to the breaking point, often while suffering no repercussions.

If you’re worried about these bills — and you should be — and you’re not a U.S. citizen, you can let your own elected officials know that you are aware of how they will impact you even though you are not American, and that you hope your government is letting Washington know how unhappy your government is with its citizens being so dramatically affected by overreaching U.S. law. Let your leaders know, too, that you do not support any similar legislation in your country… because, if SOPA/PROTECT IP pass in the U.S., many other nations will follow.

Read more about how outrageously dangerous SOPA is to free expression and a truly global Web at Boing Boing (once it ends its strike today) and Stop American Censorship, which includes a petition for non-U.S. citizens to express their opinion to the U.S. State Department.

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