EFF call for signatures from Internet engineers against censorship

Peter Eckersley pde at eff.org
Wed Dec 14 02:12:34 UTC 2011

(Apologies for an slightly-OT posting)

Last year, EFF organized an open letter from network engineers against
Internet censorship legislation being considered by the US Senate
(https://eff.org/deeplinks/2010/09/open-letter).  Along with other activists'
efforts, we successfully delayed that proposal, but the letter needs to be
updated for two bills, SOPA and PIPA, that are close to passing through US
Congress now.

If you would like to sign, please email me at pde at eff.org, with a one-line
summary of what part of the Internet you helped to helped to design,
implement, debug or run.

We need signatures by 8am GMT on Thursday (midnight Wednesday US Pacific, 3am
US Eastern).  Also feel free to forward this to colleagues who played a role
in designing and building the network. 

The updated letter's text is below:

  We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called
  the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards
  and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it.
  We're just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our
  project, the Internet, has brought with it.

  Last year, many of us wrote to you and your colleagues to warn about the
  proposed "COICA" copyright and censorship legislation.  Today, we are
  writing again to reiterate our concerns about the SOPA and PIPA derivatives
  of last year's bill, that are under consideration in the House and Senate.
  In many respects, these proposals are worse than the one we were alarmed to
  read last year.

  If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous
  fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the
  credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet
  infrastructure. Regardless of recent amendments to SOPA, both bills will
  risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS) and have
  other capricious technical consequences.  In exchange for this, such
  legislation would engender censorship that will simultaneously be
  circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties'
  right and ability to communicate and express themselves online.

  All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended
  to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard
  because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just
  infringing pages or files.  Worse, an incredible range of useful,
  law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals.  In fact, it
  seems that this has already begun to happen under the nascent DHS/ICE
  seizures program.  
  Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors
  and security problems.  This is true in China, Iran and other countries that
  censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship.
  It is also true regardless of whether censorship is implemented via the DNS,
  proxies, firewalls, or any other method.  Types of network errors and
  insecurity that we wrestle with today will become more widespread, and will
  affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.

  The current bills -- SOPA explicitly and PIPA implicitly -- also threaten
  engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily
  and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government.
  When we designed the Internet the first time, our priorities were
  reliability, robustness and minimizing central points of failure or control.
  We are alarmed that Congress is so close to mandating censorship-compliance
  as a design requirement for new Internet innovations.  This can only damage
  the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power
  over what their citizens can read and publish.

  The US government has regularly claimed that it supports a free and open
  Internet, both domestically and abroad.  We cannot have a free and open
  Internet unless its naming and routing systems sit above the political
  concerns and objectives of any one government or industry. To date, the
  leading role the US has played in this infrastructure has been fairly
  uncontroversial because America is seen as a trustworthy arbiter and a
  neutral bastion of free expression. If the US begins to use its
  central in the network for censorship that advances its political and
  economic agenda, the consequences will be far-reaching and destructive.

  Senators, Congressmen, we believe the Internet is too important and too
  valuable to be endangered in this way, and implore you to put these bills

Peter Eckersley                            pde at eff.org
Technology Projects Director      Tel  +1 415 436 9333 x131
Electronic Frontier Foundation    Fax  +1 415 436 9993

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