Some people think it is OK to crack down on truly online heinous online criminals (child pornographers, cyberterrorists and the like) but take a buyer-beware attitude with other online crime, notably IP theft. Are a few singers or movie makers worth destroying the Internet? But that view point is not only cavalier about IP theft but it also wrongly assumes the Internet ecosystem is made up a of tidy compartments. In Piracy and Malware: Two Parts of a Single Problem, ITIF Senior Research Fellow Richard Bennett explains there is a significant overlap between sites trafficking in IP theft and those trafficking in malware. Legislation aimed at rogue foreign sites, the Stop Online Privacy Act, while not a complete solution, does at least recognize that IP and malware are connected and the cost of IP-related crime to the U.S. economy and the security of consumers warrants action.
Protecting Americans from Web Scams
Just as a 411 operator won’t tell you an unlisted number, DNS can refuse to provide Internet addresses if it chooses. SOPA simply requires ISPs to delist the Internet addresses of foreign sites found by a US court to be dedicated to criminal activities. DNS has had the ability to delist sites since it was designed in 1987, and all widely used DNS services have this capability.
SOPA critics charge that such filtering breaks the Internet, but it does no such thing as long as it’s done sensibly. (Security experts criticized an early version of SOPA, but the amended bill addresses their concerns.) It’s a practical means of protecting consumers from rogue sites that traffic in illegal goods.
Refusing to Answer for Policy Reasons
Senior Research Fellow Richard Bennett continues to expand upon the SOPA debate by examining the design of DNS in this blog for The Hill. He recognizes that not everyone likes the idea of using technical measures to reduce the incidence of crime on the Internet; but indicates that Response Policy and anti-spam measures have drawn considerable fire from Internet traditionalists and ardent free speech mavens. It’s unreasonable to claim that these measures are the products of “Internet ignorance” simply because Congress is not over-stocked with members who can describe Secure DNS in exacting detail; they’re consistent with the long-standing design of DNS.
It seems that SOPA’s technical critics may have forgotten a detail or two about this part of the Internet themselves.