WikiLeaks and the PROTECT-IP Act: A new public-private threat to the Internet commons

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Citation: Yochai Benkler (2011) WikiLeaks and the PROTECT-IP Act: A new public-private threat to the Internet commons. Daedalus (RSS)

doi: 10.1162/DAED_a_00121


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Summary:

Benkler uses two sets of examples to discuss what he sees as a troubling increase in extra-judicial processes that are design to starve, cut-off, or kill bad actors. His first example, discussed at length, is WikiLeaks. His second is a series of copyright laws that include COICA and 2011 PROTECT-IP act.

In the case of Wikileaks, Benkler describes how Senator Joeseph Lieberman wrote a letter implying that Wikileaks had engaged in activity and that this letter ultimately led to the cut in service from a series of hosting and payment providers including Paypal, VISA, and Mastercard. Although no legal or court actions were brought against Wikileaks at this point, this effectively cut off funding for the project.

Benkler draws a comparison between this and between US copyright laws (like PROTECT-IP) that allow any online service provider from cutting off service when an actor is alleged or suspected to have engaged in copyright infringement. He suggests that by effectively cutting of organizations from resources, it may be impossible for accused organizations to sustain themselves while defending themselves.

Benkler argues that these laws are essentially enlisting private industry into enforcing the will of the state in ways that, had the state acted directly, would have been constrained by the Constitution. He implies that this is provided technical and political end-runs around Constitutional protections that society should pay attention to.