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Web freedom groups criticize state attorney general for Goliath action

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Natalie Maynor / Flickr

The same groups that brought down SOPA seem to be turning their attention to the recent Goliath news. On the heels of Google's lawsuit against the Mississippi attorney general, a coalition of 13 advocacy groups has turned its attention to the recent actions against Google, and is issuing a letter criticizing Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's role in the MPAA program known as Project Goliath. Hood has already called for a "time out" in the ongoing legal battle, but judging by the letter, many web freedom groups are unimpressed.

The group includes the American Library Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, all of which were active in the fight against SOPA. While Hood's investigations were limited to Google as a company, the group called out the new push for site-blocking powers as a bid to resurrect SOPA by other means. "SOPA was a bad idea at the federal level," the letter concludes, "and any SOPA revival on a state level is an equally bad idea."

The letter is embedded in full below:

Dear Attorney General Hood:

According to recent news reports, your office, in active coordination with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its member companies, has been and remains engaged in a coordinated campaign to shut down and block access to individual websites through backdoor methods resoundingly rejected by the public and federal lawmakers.

Publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Verge are reporting that the MPAA responded to the failure of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012 by quietly searching for alternate means to accomplish key provisions of the bill, such as website blocking and search filtering. It is our understanding that those efforts include developing legal theories and even drafting civil investigation demand letters for state attorneys general to facilitate actions against websites and search engines. The goal of these efforts mirrors the goal of SOPA: to create new legal tools that will compel online service providers to remove content from the Internet with little, if any, meaningful due process. While we recognize these reports may be incomplete, the available information nevertheless leaves us deeply concerned. As demonstrated in the debate over SOPA, compelled website blocking by online service providers poses an unjustifiable threat to the security of the Domain Name System (DNS), the basic address book of the Internet. Similarly, requiring third parties to filter the contents of DNS lookups and search results threatens the Internet as a tool and forum for free expression.

Despite these risks, you told The Huffington Post you agreed with the methods of the ill­-fated SOPA legislation. We beg to differ, as do the engineers who created the internet, the organizations and businesses that depend upon a secure and robust internet infrastructure, and the legions of Internet users who spoke out against SOPA in 2011 and 2012. When Congress tried to pass SOPA in 2011­-2012, millions of Americans signed petitions, called and emailed their Congressional representatives, and commented on social media platforms, all firmly opposing attempts to limit online speech by blocking websites without appropriate legal process. SOPA was a bad idea at the federal level, and any SOPA revival on a state level is an equally bad idea that, we are confident, will be equally unacceptable to the public. We have included several letters highlighting the original opposition to SOPA to remind you of the depth of the problems with this approach and the principled opposition to curtailing free speech that it first provoked.

Sincerely,
American Library Association
Center for Democracy and Technology
Computer and Communications Industry Association
Consumer Electronics Association
Demand Progress
Engine Advocacy
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Free Press
Freedomworks
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Public Knowledge
Roostrikers
R Street