Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA, PIPA and impact on Emerging countries

The debate about SOPA & PIPA has oscillated between a pro-piracy/anti-piracy debate and a pro-censorship/anti-censorship debate, with the media companies choosing the former battle ground and the tech companies opting for the latter. Although it is not merely a propaganda war there is much at stake including the impact of emerging online activism in countries where internet is beginning to spread. The present Indian government has been in the habit of censoring public voice especially since the voice of public did not go down too well with it's governance mechanisms that included high a degree of corruption. These are a few thoughts I had about SOPA & PIPA with respect to emerging economies.
1. Correlation with Speech Censorship tools
SOPA,PIPA use the same tools for censorship used by countries like China, known for violating human rights to suppress speech
2. Impact on Internet Transparency in Emerging Economies
India, which seems to be a successful democracy ranks very low on internet transparency as indicated by Google. A Google spokesperson has gone on to state that 
"We received requests from state and local law enforcement agencies to remove YouTube videos that displayed protests against social leaders or used offensive language in reference to religious leaders. We declined the majority of these requests and only locally restricted videos that appeared to violate local laws prohibiting speech that could incite enmity between communities. In addition, we received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 236 communities and profiles from orkut that were critical of a local politician. We did not comply with this request, since the content did not violate our Community Standards or local law."
Already struggling with governance issues, corruption, and debate over the Jan Lokpal bill, passing of SOPA in high probability can act as a precedent to emerging economies such as India.
3. No Real Change in Piracy
India is notorious for piracy with Nehru Place in New Delhi featuring among the top 30 notorious IT markets of the world, dealing in goods and services infringing intellectual property rights (IPR). SOPA, PIPA will impact government's high handedness in dealing with public voice against government on the internet, it may not cause any real change in managing "pirate-hubs" such as Nehru Place.