SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are two bills that came to a vote in Congress in January 2012. These bills were supposed to help fight copyright infringement on the Internet, but, if they passed, the government would be able to block certain websites for most Internet users. This gave the government far too much control.
At first, there didn’t appear to be a problem and it was thought that both bills would pass in the Senate and House. A protest staged by some popular websites showed Internet users what their Internet would look like if the bills were passed. Sites like Wikipedia blacked out their sites for a day. This got people to understand that giving the government full Internet control was a dangerous thing and a letter-writing campaign began. Thousands of letters were sent to state representatives telling them to vote “No” on both of these bills. The campaign worked and in October 2012, the bills were taken off the table.
With that threat out of the way, Internet users thought it was safe. Then, an international treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) came up. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) would have to “monitor and censor online communications” under ACTA. Not only was this seen as a threat to privacy, it was also seen as threatening to our freedom of speech. During the panel discussions on this, some of the points were leaked out to the public. Citizens of quite a few European countries took to the streets to protest the passing of this treaty. The protests worked. In July, the treaty was voted against by the European Parliament and was taken off the table all over Europe in December.
During this time, lawmakers in Washington, DC didn’t give up on their plan to remove copyright infringing content from the Internet. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and the Cybersecurity Act (CSA) were brought up. Though both bills caused concern, the one that was considered most dangerous was CISPA. This was because so many who were set against SOPA were now supporting CISPA. The bill was supported because companies found that under it, they could share personal information with the government without consent and not have to worry about litigation. Even with this support, both of these bills were taken off the table by the middle of November.