Thursday, October 10, 2013

CISPA: A Modern Censorship Parallel

Milton Areopagitica inscription in NYC Library.
Do we believe in our first amendment rights? While Milton wasn't radical enough to suggest that the people of England have complete freedom of the press, he did advocate for freedom to share and distribute ideas, because that's how we gain new knowledge. In his Areopagitica, Milton argues that you can't get rid of problems by censorship and monitoring. It does more damage to truth than it does good. And if you don't have all sorts of information spreading, how are people to grow and determine what exactly truth is supposed to be? "Suppose we could expel sin by this means; look how much we thus expel of sin, so much we expel of virtue. For the matter of them both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike. This justifies the high providence of God, who though he command us temperance, justice, continence, yet pours out before us even to a profuseness all desirable things and gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety."

Nowadays we don't have to worry about censorship, right? Think again.

Laws such as ACTA have been proposed in 39 European countries, and SOPA and CISPA are the American equivalents. Hear about either of them? Chances are that if you did, it was because you read the news, or you tried to get on Wikipedia that day that they had their blackout in protest of CISPA. But what exactly was CISPA trying to do? Why is it important? The bill lost out (barely) in Congress, so why should we be concerned? The video below describes why CISPA is so dangerous, and we should be concerned because our privacy rights and freedom of speech rights are being threatened by laws like this. And this is the kind of thing that Milton was saying just wouldn't work in the first place. It makes abuse of power far too easy, and it damages the good stuff as well as the bad. The whole "you can't harvest the wheat without the tares" thing he talks about.

This is a problem, people. It was in Milton's day, and it is in ours. And I'm not talking in China or other dictatorships. Censorship here in America! And you know there's problems when the NSA is involved. CISPA creates "a real civil liberties problem."

Milton, John (2009-10-28). The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton (Modern Library) (Kindle Locations 32350-32353). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

1 comment:

  1. It's quite interesting how there's such a fine line between legal protections and censorship. I'd be curious to see if Milton talks about this in his works.