What happens when the government wants to fire a salvo in the copyright war that will, as a function of its broadside, accidentally break the foundation of the internet? Everyone gets upset, from the common folk to the mass media — because, see, everyone uses the internet. Thus, SOPA and PIPA died.
What happens when a whole lot of companies and a whole lot of House representatives want to push a bill that serves as another (more stealthy) salvo in that same copyright war, which indemnifies companies against being sued for any privacy violation that happens when the government demands personal information about customers without a warrant, allowing a completely legal totalitarian Big Brother state that extends far beyond the borders of the state in question? Apparently nothing — because, see, evidently nobody gives a shit about privacy.
CISPA was not as it turns out actually due for a vote today, as I reported earlier. It was slated to be up for a vote “as early as” Monday, but by all accounts, could pass the House by Friday. I’ve covered what the bill is and how it fits in the post-SOPA landscape, and Stephanie Zvan experienced a suspiciously timed glitch on Facebook, one of the bill’s corporate sponsors. Today, let’s talk about the media reaction to this bill.
A few places have picked up the story. Tech-ish sites like Wired and CNET and Information Week picked up the bill’s proposal and continue coverage, but that’s far from mainstream. Sites outside the US cover it, as usual, much deeper than the seemingly media-embargoed news outlets inside the country — for instance, The Guardian has excellent coverage. Even state-sponsored Russia Times continues its presently surprisingly democratic and freedom-loving vector. (I have to be honest — I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. This might be a bad reflection on my personal prejudices.)
Aside from that, you’ll pretty much only hear about CISPA in the blogosphere. Bloggers who care about privacy and freedom of expression and actual cyber-security — e.g. people who think “Advanced Persistent Threats” are ridiculously overblown foils (like cartoon terrorists, only for computers!), used for fictional scenarios used to scare up big bucks — are pretty much the only folks running with this one. SOPA died in no small part because Wikipedia and Reddit raised awareness by blacking out their sites in protest. This time, they evidently can’t be bothered.
But what really galls me about this is not the lack of mainstream media coverage. It’s the crowing coming from Mike Rogers (R-MI), as though the bill is already a fait accompli. It’s the fact that the biggest name speaking out against this is perennial nutter Ron Paul.
It’s the fact that this is probably going to happen because too few people give a shit about privacy, too few people know that the real privacy bomb is the passage about “theft of intellectual property” being as bad as actual “cyber security” threats, and too few people know anything about the internet to know that “cyber security” as understood by the layfolk is something you actually have to define and delineate in matters of law, or else you’ll just get another “this is a matter of National Security(tm)” stock phrase for way easier violation of your rights. Did something on a computer? The government could at any time say “give us everything you have on Jane Doe, it’s a matter of Cyber Security(tm).” Doesn’t matter if they’re asking for that info because they got an anonymous tip that you downloaded a cam rip of The Avengers, or that you’re actually running a botnet out of your house, or hell, let’s say because you registered for the other political party than the one that’s in power now. And you can’t sue. (Democrats tried to add back the “you can sue companies for screwing you over” language, but Republicans took it right back out.)
It’s the fact that Google is trying to play it both ways, secretly working on the bill while avoiding making an official stance and while Rogers repeatedly claims they support the bill.
My gall on this one is also, to a large degree, the fact that I feel like I’m ranting into the wind on this one. Fruitlessly. It’s a sense of impotence mixed with foreboding.