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Technology & Innovation

Hurray for SOPA!

What’s the Big Idea?

Big Think co-founder Peter Hopkins is fond of thinking against the grain, and when it comes to the current debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Hopkins’s thinking is true to form. 

According to Hopkins, while SOPA has been “vilified and grossly mischaracterized,” the proposed law is actually necessary to protect the people he calls “the content innovators.” These are not people like Rupert Murdoch. They are people without a platform or a voice but aim to “make content smarter.” And yet, according to Hopkins, this small group of “unsung heroes” have had “every single obstacle thrown in their path.”

These obstacles include the mega-media companies, who are not true innovators and often “think in old and fixed ways,” Hopkins says. In addition, content innovators have been undervalued by the venture capital world, and most importantly, they have been “ripped off by foreign entities.” That is why Hopkins argues that SOPA, imperfect as it might be, is a reasonable protection that he supports.

Watch the video here:

What’s the Significance?

Does Peter Hopkins really support censorship? Of course not. For one thing, as Hopkins points out, SOPA does not alter anything about free speech that isn’t already inscribed in existing copyright law. But free speech is also simply the wrong issue to be leading with, he says. 

“Any time somebody represents themselves as the ultimate defender of such a central and core right it is worth looking more deeply,” Hopkins says. Is the technology industry really a credible defender of free speech? Look at their track record, Hopkins says. “If this is such a core principal why do they accept and work in so many instances within much tighter and draconian bounds that limit the freedom of speech of others who use their programs in other parts of the world?” Hint: think China. These companies both limit speech by preventing certain pages to load, and put a chill on speech by scanning and reporting user activities to governments. 

It is very difficult to reconcile these positions with certain tech companies’ sudden embrace of free speech as it relates to SOPA. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


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