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I remember fondly the days when we were all tickled pink by our elected officials’ struggle to understand how the internet works. Whether it was George W. Bush referring to “the internets” or Senator Ted Stevens describing said internets as “a series of tubes,” we would sit back and chortle at our well-meaning but horribly uninformed representatives, confident that the right people would eventually steer them back on course. Well I have news for members of Congress: Those days are over.
• See also: What Are Our Free Speech Fail-safes If SOPA Passes?
We get it. You think you can be cute and old-fashioned by openly admitting that you don’t know what a DNS server is. You relish the opportunity to put on a half-cocked smile and ask to skip over the techno-jargon, conveniently masking your ignorance by making yourselves seem better aligned with the average American joe or jane — the “non-nerds” among us. But to anyone of moderate intelligence that tuned in to yesterday’s Congressional mark-up of SOPA, the legislation that seeks to fundamentally change how the internet works, you kind of just looked like a bunch of jack-asses.
Some background: Since its introduction, SOPA and its Senate twin PROTECT-IP have been staunchly condemned by countless engineers, technologists and lawyers intimately familiar with the inner functioning of the internet. Completely beside the fact that these bills as they currently stand would stifle free speech and potentially cripple legitimate businesses by giving corporations extrajudicial censorial powers, they have found an even more insidious threat: The method of DNS filtering proposed to block supposed infringing sites opens up enormous security holes that threaten the stability of the internet itself.
The only problem: Key members of the House Judiciary Committee still don’t understand how the internet works, and worse yet, it’s not clear whether they even want to.
It’s of course perfectly standard for members of Congress to not be exceptionally proficient in technological matters. But for some committee members, the issue did not stop at mere ignorance. Rather, it seemed there was in many cases an outright refusal to understand what is undoubtedly a complex issue dealing with highly-sensitive technologies.
When the security issue was brought up, Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina seemed particularly comfortable about his own lack of understanding. Grinningly admitting “I’m not a nerd” before the committee, he nevertheless went on to dismiss without facts or justification the very evidence he didn’t understand and then downplay the need for a panel of experts. Rep. Maxine Waters of California followed up by saying that any discussion of security concerns is “wasting time” and that the bill should move forward without question, busted internets be damned. Source: