CISPA Passes House – Is it Time For Gamers To Panic?
By a vote of 288 to 127, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which could have serious consequences for online privacy, both for gamers and the Internet at large. The overwhelming victory for CISPA demonstrates legislators’ frightening support of the erosion of constitutional liberties and legal protections against the abuse of copyright laws.
Though this is the second time the House has passed CISPA legislation, this latest vote happens after support for the bill has actually increased among elected officials, and represents a disappointing success for the movement to securitize and privatize the Internet after the failures of SOPA and PIPA in early 2012. The bill will now go to the Senate, where passage is not guaranteed but enjoys disturbing, widespread support.
CISPA, an update to the 1947 National Security Act, is meant to facilitate greater sharing of critical information between intelligence organizations and corporations involved in the technology sphere, in order to more quickly respond to the growing threat of cyberattacks. However, the bill contains vague language that doesn’t fully protect the privacy of law abiding citizens, and also subtly defines many forms of copyright infringement under the banner of ‘cyber terrorism’. (Read a dispassionate breakdown of the bill here.)
As online activists have been making clear now for more than a year, CISPA seems to represent not actual necessity, but a wish list handed to Congress by copyright holders and the national security apparatus. Perhaps that’s why arguments in favor of passing CISPA have bordered on the absurd. One Congressman, Republican Mike McCaul of Texas, went so far as to conjure up the Boston bombings in order to frighten representatives into voting the ‘correct’ way. “Recent events in Boston demonstrate that we have to come together as Republicans and Democrats,” he said, adding that “in the case of Boston, there were real bombs. In this case, they are digital bombs — and these digital bombs are on their way.”
Naturally, the fact that the Boston attacks were completely unrelated to cybersecurity in any form escaped the distinguished gentleman’s attention, or at least the attention of his colleagues. The obfuscation of the realities of the Boston Tragedy is even more offensive when one considers how similar arguments were not employed when an attempt to reform certain gun laws died in the Senate only yesterday. This is noteworthy because in each case, the opinion of Congress was known in advance of the vote, a fact I will cynically note suggests that the justifications are purely ex post facto. Make of that what you will.