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SOPA Is Defeated, But New Internet Bill Gains Critics

Submitted by on January 20, 2012 – 11:13 pm39 Comments
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Rep. Lamar Smith announced yesterday that he is completely withdrawing the controversial SOPA legislation being considered in the House “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” But just as the bill’s opponents celebrate the success of their massive protest movement, another law also authored by Smith is attracting attention as an even bigger threat to Internet freedom. The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 would require internet providers to store every single customer’s browsing history and private data for over a year, and is being called a lethal threat to privacy rights by critics.

Back in August, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic called the legislation, also known as H.R. 1981, “arguably the biggest threat to civil liberties now under consideration in the United States.” The bill has been approved by committee, but not by the whole House.

The bill also calls for harsher punishments for child pornographers and increased protection for child witnesses, stipulations that, on their own, few would object to. A relatively short section on “retention of certain records” is what’s causing all the concern:

“A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least 18 months the temporarily assigned network addresses the service assigns to each account, unless that address is transmitted by radio communication…”

The bill also suggests weakly and vaguely that “records retained… should be stored securely to protect customer privacy”.

Critics accuse the bill of using “protecting children” as an excuse to violate civil liberties, comparing it to the argument that internet censorship (as recommended by SOPA and PIPA) was necessary to fight copyright infringement and piracy.

What do you think? Is this new bill a crime fighting tool, or a threat to privacy?

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