Congressman proposes Internet law 'freeze'; more harm than good?

Summary:A new proposed Internet bill would result in a ban on all federal legislation regulating the Internet for 2 years. Sounds good in theory, right? Wrong.

SOPA, PIPA, CISPA all failed in Congress this year, but some are still attempting to pushing through policies that could affect the openness of the Web .

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Credit: CNET

Enough is enough, says one Congressman, who is proposing a bill that would ban all bills affecting the regulation of the Internet for the next two years. 

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) posted a draft of his proposed bill, dubbed the Internet American Moratorium Act 2012, which would "create a two-year moratorium [suspension] on any new laws, rules or regulations governing the Internet." 

Issa first posted the draft bill to Project Madison, a crowdsourced service that allows users to strike through text and make amendments to individual sections of the legislation. Issa subsequently posted the link on Reddit, where it was quickly upvoted to the top of the site.

In his post, he said: "Together, we can make Washington take a break from messing [with] the Internet."

A tech-savvy and outspoken critic of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), he nonetheless faced some harsh critics on the news-sharing site, despite Reddit's site-wide ethos to keep the Web open and without restriction. (The site pulled the plug for a whole day earlier this year to protest SOPA, along with dozens of other high-profile sites.)

"This could be a PR stunt," said one user. "You could be trying to gain recognition for 'helping the internet denizens' so that you can become President in the next 4-8 years." Another said: "This just seems to me to be more cheap political theater, along the lines of Grover Norquists 'We will never ever ever raise taxes for any reason' pledge."

There has certainly been mixed reaction across the board. A bill that would effectively stop Congress from governing is arguably a step back. As Gizmodo's Leslie Horn explained: 

Open internet? That's a good thing. But a law that keeps congress from governing? That's not a good thing—the internet is a big place, and the language of this law is very broad.

A ban on legislation may not be the wisest of all ideas, and Reddit -- with more than 46 million active users in October -- doesn't appear to have been caught up in the excitement of the proposals. But without legislation, it means Congress can't ask the powerhouses of the Web, such as Facebook or Google, to ensure data protection or user privacy through new rules.

From the proposed legislation:

SEC. 3. MORATORIUM ON NEW LAWS, REGULATIONS, OR RULES.
It is resolved in the House of Representatives and Senate that they shall not pass any new legislation for a period of 2 years from the date of enactment of this Act that would require individuals or corporations engaged in activities on the Internet to meet additional requirements or activities. After 90 days of passage of this Act no Department or Agency of the United States shall publish new rules or regulations, or finalize or otherwise enforce or give lawful effect to draft rules or regulations affecting the Internet until a period of at least 2 years from the enactment of this legislation has elapsed.

It's a nice idea, but not well thought through. A little bit of regulation is a good thing. Too much regulation can be a bad thing, and getting the middle ground just right -- which is roughly where we are now -- is fine. But don't freeze the whole thing. The middle ground needs to be fluid and modified from time to time, not dramatically overhauled or frozen in the ice so it can't be changed. 

Issa will be on Reddit later today to answer questions. Get your popcorn at the ready.

Topics: Networking, Legal, Security

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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