The Stop Online Piracy Act seemed destined for passage when it first surfaced in the House of Representatives in 2011. Intended to discourage illegal copyright violations, SOPA would have given private entities the power to blacklist websites at will. It would have violated the due process rights of thousands of users who could have seen their sites disappear from the internet. And it would have allowed banks to freeze financial deposits to the accounts of website owners, potentially forcing falsely accused internet enterprises out of business.

Supporters claimed that SOPA was the only way to effectively fight online piracy. If it had passed, corporations (with the help of the courts) would have become the arbiters of what is and isn't lawful online activity, with millions of internet users swept in their nets as collateral damage.

But on January 18, 2012, thousands of websites went dark to protest SOPA and its companion bill in the Senate, the Protect IP Act. Wikipedia, reddit, BoingBoing, Free Press and Save the Internet were among the many participants in the protest, which created such a backlash that both bills were shelved.

This remarkable turn of events demonstrated the power of online organizing. But SOPA likely won't be the last time that powerful Hollywood studios and media companies use their Washington connections to try to slip through legislation that threatens the open internet.

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  • Broadband

    Access to high-speed internet service — also known as broadband — is a basic public necessity, just like water or electricity.

    Yet despite its importance, broadband access in the United States is far from universal. Millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the digital divide, unable to tap into the political, economic and social resources of the internet.

  • Cable

    Two decades ago, something unusual happened.

    Consumers were irate about their cable bills, which were increasing at nearly three times the rate of inflation. And Congress actually did something — adopting in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion the 1992 Cable Act. The law resulted in lower cable bills, saving consumers $3 billion in just over a year’s time.

  • Cybersecurity

    Our right to private communications is a cornerstone of American democracy. But with heightened awareness in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, technological advances have continued allowing the government to expand its reach into our private lives via electronic surveillance and data-mining programs. New laws and policies introduced in the last decade have eroded our civil liberties online.

    Congress has a poor track record when it comes to cybersecurity legislation. The bills introduced so far give the government way too much power to intrude on our privacy online.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good