Past efforts by the US government to take down websites by seizing domains have been, in the most charitable of terms, laughable. Affected sites simply obtained new domains from services outside the US and were back up quickly, often with merely a change in their top level domain and the same name as before. So, in the United State’s latest bid to police and censor the Internet, some senators have proposed a bill that would allow them to blacklist sites, seizing the domain and legally requiring search engines to no longer index them.
What a precedent that would set. The current guise is just to combat piracy, something supposedly in the best interests of corporations. But once it’s okay to do that for one category of site, there is an agreement that it is ever okay. From there, the reality that it could be used to suppress groups the government, or their corporate backers, do not care for is fully realistic. They would no longer have to justify the action, but merely the reasoning. Terrorism, the public good and national interests are vague enough terms to allow for quite a bit of room.
Any step towards China’s “great firewall” is a threat to the freedom of information. The protection of free speech necessitates the protection of unpopular speech. The moment one entity is given the authority to declare what is and what is not acceptable speech is the same moment in which speech ceases to be free. No entity truly has the grounds to make such a declaration, nor should one be granted such a platform. It is easy to dismiss this bill and wave it off as merely combating piracy. But if you ask the Trojans, they will tell you that sometimes a horse is not merely a horse.