Can the Government Regulate the Internet?

Was the online boycott of cybersecurity legislation an act of democracy or hyperbolic overreaction?

Was it an “abuse of trust and a misuse of power” as this New York Times op-ed piece claims?

When Wikipedia and Google purport to be neutral sources of information, but then exploit their stature to present information that is not only not neutral but affirmatively incomplete and misleading, they are duping their users into accepting as truth what are merely self-serving political declarations.

As it happens, the television networks that actively supported SOPA and PIPA didn’t take advantage of their broadcast credibility to press their case. That’s partly because “old media” draws a line between “news” and “editorial.” Apparently, Wikipedia and Google don’t recognize the ethical boundary between the neutral reporting of information and the presentation of editorial opinion as fact.

Let me insert here the measured claim that “old media” do not now draw a line between “news” and “editorial” to any extent resembling what they used to back in the days of more ethical journalism, nor do they reflect recognition of “the ethical boundary between neutral reporting of information and the presentation of editorial opinion as fact.” Seriously.

This is especially rich, coming from the Times:

Get enough of them to espouse Silicon Valley’s perspective, and tens of millions of Americans will get a one-sided view of whatever the issue may be, drowning out the other side.

So, back to the bills in question…

Sure, anybody could click on a link or tweet in outrage — but how many knew what they were supporting or opposing? Would they have cast their clicks if they knew they were supporting foreign criminals selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals to Americans? Was it SOPA they were opposed to, or censorship?


No doubt, some genuinely wanted to protect Americans against theft but were sincerely concerned about how the language in the bill might be interpreted.

Count me among them. Government regulators are out of control…which is another story for another time.

Virtually every opponent acknowledged that the problem of counterfeiting and piracy is real and damaging.


It has become clear that, at this point, neither SOPA, PIPA nor OPEN is a viable answer. We need to take a step back to seek fresh ideas and new approaches.

They keep coming. And they’re hugely unpopular, meeting with strong resistance where they’re even considered, across the globe.

Meanwhile in Washington, legislators are trying again to figure out whether, and how, the internet can be regulated.

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Sheila Gribben Liaugminas, of Chicago, is a member of the Voices editorial board, and was host of The Right Questions on Relevant Radio and Issues and Answers news show. She and her husband have two sons, one a seminarian and the other a college student. Follow updates on this story (and contact Sheila) at

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