The Secret Plot to Censor the Internet -- And How You Can Stop It

The Internet blacklist bill that we've been fighting since September is back.

We're defending the Internet against a multi-pronged attack by the big business lobby. The entertainment industry, garment manufacturers, and even big pharmaceutical companies -- who want to shut down websites that sell medicine to your grandparents -- are urging Congress to pass a bill that would censor broad portions of the Internet.

Three weeks ago the Chamber of Commerce and others sent this letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, who's the just-reelected Judiciary Chair and the lead sponsor of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), asking him to push COICA through during the lame duck session that starts next week. All signs are that he's going to oblige: He just scheduled the bill for a hearing for next Thursday.

Will you join the more than 250,000 people who've already signed on to Demand Progress's anti-COICA petition? We're going to deliver it when Congress returns, and make it clear that we're not going to let COICA just slip through during the post-election, deficit, tax cut morass.

Politico says the bill is "hotly debated" -- and that's true only because the Netroots and other Internet users geared up aggressively after it was introduced in September, and, shockingly, scheduled for passage just 10 days later.

Under COICA, the government could force Internet service providers to block access to sites like YouTube, Wikileaks, and others that the government claims are spurring the spread of copyrighted materials.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation lists some vulnerable sites here.  In blocking these sites, the government would be violating the First Amendment and reasonable due process, and setting a terrible precedent that totalitarian regimes across the globe would use to justify their own crackdowns on Internet freedom.

The ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and other human rights organizations issued a letter of their own in late October, underscoring that passing this legislation would put us in the company of Turkey and other countries that regularly censor access to online content.

The human rights community has strongly condemned countries that use the tactics proposed in COICA to take down content for a site's global user base....COICA would stand for the proposition that countries have the right to insist on removal of content from  the global Internet in service to the exigencies of  domestic law. Nothing in principle would limit application of this approach solely to copyright infringement.

As the corporatists gain more power, an open Internet will be ever more vital to maintaining our democracy and leaving the left with a fighting chance. We need to make elected Democrats understand that Netroots activists won't be motivated to work for politicians who run roughshod over the Internet and civil liberties.

This is a big fight, but we can win it: The bill's sponsors have already signaled that they're going to amend it to make it a bit less heavy handed, and failed to take it up for an expected vote in October.  There's some dissent on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and even more in the House.  We need to encourage our allies to buck up and fight back: Will you help us by signing on today?