Which bill is worse NDAA or SOPA?

I was posed this interesting question by my friend JurriĆ«n, which bill is worse the most recent NDAA or SOPA. What is the NDAA? Well it’s a yearly bill called the National Defense Authorization Act, however there were some incredibly important changes to this years bill. This years NDAA turned the United States into a battle field and gave the US government the right to arrest anyone for any reason. It also includes provisions for allowing the indefinite detention of any US citizen. Something like this has already occurred with the PATRIOT Act, which allowed the President to go after so called “enemy combatants.” Most of these prisoners are currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What does this bill mean to you and me? Well, the basic argument is if you’re doing nothing wrong it won’t impact you. However, I see in this bill the potential to return to McCarthyism at it’s worst. Only instead of Communists we’ll be seeing terrorists everywhere. Likely it could eventually lead to oppression of anyone that appears to be Arabic, Pakistani, Afghan, or similar skin tone. This type of power is ripe for abuse and might be extended to fight the “War on Drugs” as many of those groups are essentially terrorists in Mexico.

What about SOPA? I’ve written about that fairly extensively, but tomorrow we’re going to get to see a preview of what life might be like under SOPA. Tomorrow Reddit, Wikipedia, imgur and many other smaller websites are going to black out all of their content. Nothing will be readable as a protest against the law. In addtion, the Senate counter part PIPA (Protect IP act) is up for a hearing on Jan 24 so be sure to contact your Senator

Both laws I think are going to be abused by the US government and by agencies that are given additional powers. In many ways they are similar in that they restrict our Constitutional Rights as Americans. We will lose our 6th Amendment right to a trial by jury and our 8th Amendment Rights, which prohibits excessive, cruel and unusual punishments. Based on this, Chris Hedges has sued Obama over the passing of this bill. This might have a good chance of succeeding in overturning the law.

SOPA/PIPA aren’t on the books yet. I think that we can prevent these two from passing and will for a time save the internet. It will take a lot of continual effort and we will have to remain vigilant against surprise sessions where they attempt to pass the laws.

I worry that the NDAA will not be revoked in its current form and will be used to dramatically harm US citizens. Additionally, I fear any attempt to link SOPA/PIPA to national defense which would surely pass. So at this point, NDAA is worse only because it has passed. Once SOPA/PIPA pass, the three combined could be a nightmare for us, but a dream come true for dictators around the world. What could we say to future Saddam’s when they are able to point to US law and say, you can do it why can’t we?

What is the right to assemble online?

Sorry for the long delay in posts. I’ve been a little busy and I’ve had some trouble coming up with topics as well. So, if there are any topics you’d like to see written about feel free to shoot me a message.

In the US we have an amendment to our constitution which ensures our right to assemble. This amendment is important because it allows us to protest governmental action and activities we do not like. We do not always like the way that this right is being expressed, such as the Westboro Baptist Church protesting fallen soldiers, gay suicides and a range of other things. It also protests our right to counter protest the WBC.

In the case of a protest over a company, it’s possible to protest in front of their headquarters or in front of individual branches such as Bank of America. In many ways these tactics are effective because it drives media attention do to it’s location. If someone is protesting a bank in small town America, such as my home town, Grove City, PA no one is going to care. You might get a piece written about it in the Allied but it’s unlikely to attract the attention of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette which is only 60 miles south. Even if some how it did make the news in Pittsburgh, it’s unlikely to remain in the news, which that’s something a protest in Pittsburgh would actually be able to do.

Why does this matter? Well, for a company like Amazon.com much of it’s physical locations are in small town America. They don’t have large presences in many major cities. How do you effectively protest a large internet based company? How do you protest a company when the people that want to do the protesting are scattered throughout the world?

In the past I’ve written about LulzSec and Anonymous, these groups still operate and have had some interesting ideas about how to protest. The first is what is called a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, where a company’s website is overwhelmed with requests for access to the site and it kills the server. This would be the physical equivalent of creating a lined of linked arms across the doorway to the company’s headquarters or branch. Typically, these sort of attacks don’t last very long because IT departments have become very good at finding the sources of these attacks and stopping them.

It is not possible to respond by moving across the street to continue protesting where people to see you. It is also not possible to post ads in the area as a form of protest. However, it is possible to buy ads on Google or other such sites that will display something if you type Bank of America, however, I’m not sure if this is effective or not.

Another type of protest employed is the internet petition. I’ve signed plenty of them, but it’s fairly obvious that these are as worth as much as the paper their printed on (which is to say none). These really just make you feel better, without much work.

At this point, I think that when it has come to massive protests online, Reddit has created the blueprint. Redditors have worked extremely hard to protest SOPA. This has included call your senator day, getting websites to agree to an internet blackout day, where sites will completely black out all content. This is a representation of the impact of censorship that SOPA will enact.

However, this type of protest isn’t really possible for all types of government or private business action. While the denial of service attacks aren’t very effective, they do raise awareness and have lead to other types of attacks, such as hacking and the release of data that users thought was secure. Despite the fact that it is theft of data, these actions have done more to change company behavior than any other type of internet based protests.

Is that the future of assembly online? I don’t know. It’s easy to block websites that act as a rallying point, so it will be important for people to actually meet to do their protesting as protesting on the internet doesn’t really have the same impact, unless something big gets leaked. We do need to define what is acceptable as a society for online protesting. DoS might be a way to allow protests.