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Internet community on strike against SOPA and PIPA!

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I live in the web. I feel compelled to write about this issue…

Several weeks ago, I got heroically delusional by attempting to battle local pornography access in the Philippines (yeah go ahead; call me St. Pepe, the patron saint of sinners). And I did just that by launching a blog which I pompously entitled as the Philippine Online Movement Against Pornography. Ironically, as a person who supports freedom of expression and of the press (i.e., “online press”), I was somehow inspired by certain countries’ lordship over the internet. In China, for instance, Facebook is inaccessible. North Korea practices the same kind of censorship towards particular websites that its government deems to be pro-South Korea.

And I remember a few years ago from my Dubai-based friend Weirdonextdoor that she could not access my Spanish blog from there! I wonder what legal or perhaps moral issues blogger.com (my Spanish website’s host) may have with the UAE’s top honchos. However, I’m not really sure now if blogger.com is still banned from that Middle Eastern country.

But my point back then is this: if governments can block websites from being visited by its citizens, then why couldn’t our own do the same with porn sites? I thought it was a splendid idea.

Now, I am not about to discuss my moral standpoint regarding pornography (that would be for another blogpost). The issue right now is internet censorship. During those days that I was toying around with this anti-porn blog inside my “saintly head”, I naively thought that I’d do my country (and my faith) a great service. Little did I know that I might conveniently harm this wonderful man-made universe called the internet. Let me expound.

When fellow Filipinistas Señor Guillermo Gómez and Arnaldo Arnáiz learned about my new blog, I was surprised that they didn’t support it. Worse, they were even vehemently against it. I was dazed and disappointed. I didn’t understand from the onset what they really meant. For Señor Gómez, it was a total waste of effort. He cautioned me that it will only take away what little time I already have for our online advocacy, which is to defend and ennoble the Filipino National Identity. Arnaldo shares the same view, but he added more syllogisms and deductions to Señor‘s preoccupations…

Internet censorship is something that simply shouldn’t be. Difficult to accept/understand, yet easy to be left behind. In the internet, one can do virtually anything his mind wishes. One can satiate the desires and pleasures of the mind by visiting a preferred website: a site about books, automobiles, social networking, blogs about local insects, heritage conservation websites, stuff about communism, money-making tips online, and yes, pornography. Truly, the internet has become a global vegetable bowl wherein everyone can participate in the feasting, and that no one is shunned from doing so. But if you do not want the ingredients, then you have the option not to partake of the feast. It is really all up to you.

And in the internet, one is able to showcase perhaps one of God’s most puzzling and oft misunderstood “gifts”: freewill. In real life, we always use it without realizing that we have already decided on something. But the internet actually makes you realize that you should decide, for many different reasons, whether or not you should visit a particular site. Pornography is the best example. One might laugh off those “before-entering-click-yes-if-you’re-over-18″ disclaimer because virtually any pimply teenager straight out of puberty can visit the site. There’s no physical internet police to guard each and every netizen regarding what site should be visited in accordance to one’s moral laws and ethics. And so that’s where freewill comes in. And not only that but the intellect as well.

The intellect. It was the main reason why the late great Nick Joaquín, sitting as a member of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures during the 1960s, refused to cut nor ban controversial films because he believed in the intelligence and good sense of moviegoers. That is why former Senator Tito Sotto received a lot of flak during the mid 90s when, using his senatorial powers, he tried to censor several local and foreign rock bands (Eraserheads, Yano, Slayer, etc.) due to what he described as disturbing lyrics. Remember the memorable Eraserheads song Alapaap? Sotto tried to read between the lines of the song’s lyrics and decided that it was about a cracked-up junkie with notions of flight due to a meth high. But whether or not Sotto’s poetic intrusions are true (only the E-heads know for sure), the youth back then were not convinced by the song’s popularity, nay, lyrics to visit the nearest underground pharmacy. Actually, no song from hell ever convinced anyone to steal his dad’s gun and fire at his physics teacher. I should know; I belong to that generation when the E-heads gave us Ligaya (happiness).

In view of the foregoing, the key here is trust. Censors should refrain from being cynical about the public’s intellect. They always put the blame on the performer, on the medium. They should realize that the audience, the receptors, are not always stupid, are no longer stupid, especially in today’s age when ignorance is fast becoming obsolete. And we have the internet to thank for.

But the problem that the internet community all over the world —and not just in the US— is facing right now is not about internet censorship due to morality issues. Reportedly, the main target of the internet censors in the US Congress and the Senate is the alleged mercantilist threat towards the music industry as well as property rights. I’m talking about…

SOPA and PIPA

Today (Manila time), several big-name websites are blacked out in protest of these two controversial US bills that are pending legislation; its legislation will have a profound effect on the future of cyberspace. FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES is no big-name website (I’m ready to moon at the first one who readily agrees), but I blacked it out nonetheless to join the protest. Because this is not just a problem among the netizens of the United States of America. It will soon be a global threat once the US House of Congress’ “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and its US Senate companion bill, the Protect IP Act” (PIPA), are passed into law.

The purpose of these bills is to make it difficult, if not impossible, for websites —especially those located outside the USA— to sell or distribute pirated copyrighted material such as movies and music as well as physical goods like counterfeit purses, shirts, watches, etc. At first glance, you might think that the objectives of these bills are good. Perhaps they really are. The problem is they were not well thought of. And it should be noted that most of SOPA and PIPA’s strongest critics applaud the intentions of the legislation WHILE AT THE SAME TIME deploring what it might actually accomplish.

And what might that be?

Censorship, of course. It’s because the SOPA and the PIPA will definitely set a precedent in future internet censorship legislation. As wisely stated in Wikipedia (a vehement opponent of the said bills), the “SOPA and PIPA (will) build a framework for future restrictions and suppression”.

If SOPA and PIPA succeeds, there is a big chance that my blogs (and virtually anybody else’s blog) will be silenced in the near future on the grounds that, for instance, these websites are extremely anti-US and (‘gasp’) anti-”ABAKADA PINOY”, and that they might endanger the teaching of Philippine History, etc. Yes, it could get that worse (and I thought only Filipino legislators are stupid). And sooner or later, morality issues will come into play. And we’re not even talking about politics and religion yet.

Censorship is not always good. I’m wondering now if censorship could be another reason why Filipinos during the final years of Spanish rule were very rebellious. Think of Rizal and del Pilar and Jaena. All were good Catholics but they readily rebelled against the status quo. Is it a result of “centuries of living inside a convent”? The Catholic Church during those times was twice or thrice as strict as they are nowadays. One couldn’t simply read a book from another country for it might be listed under the Index of Forbidden books. Even the teaching of Spanish was stifled because the friars feared that when the natives learned the language, they will easily take hold of Masonic ideas that the Church abhorred for centuries. Spanish was fast becoming a vehicle of Freemasons in Europe, that is why the friars never preferred the natives to speak the language. Therefore, when the more liberal white guys from North America invaded us, our top leaders who were against Spain easily joined them. Could it be something psychological in our genes which we inherited from our ancestors during the turn of the last century that has made us allergic whenever we hear the word “censorship” nowadays?

Admittedly, the polemic discussion of censorship is still something that I do not fully understand. It has its good points as it has its bad ones because there are so many arguments to hear from both anti- and pro- groups, both of which can be passed as valid. And I still have my reservations for and against censorship. But what I know is this: if your right to be heard (and to be creative) has been stifled and jeopardized, then that is fundamentally wrong and unjust. Freewill is “divine”. Therefore, it should be accepted, if not respected. God will never stop you from liking my blogs’ Facebook fan pages. So why allow mere men to do so?

And what about the fate of the Philippine Online Movement Against Pornography? Forget it. If you suddenly feel like you want to see María Ozawa in action, then it’s all up to your intellect and sound judgment to decide whether or not it’s a good idea. Other than that, I already forgot my login credentials. So it’s no use even if I change my mind about what I think now of censorship. :D

Say no to SOPA and PIPA!

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