Google, Facebook to Congress: Don’t Expect Us to Police Piracy

In letter to Congress, group of technology giants claims Stop Piracy Act will impose an unfair burden on them to stop rogue websites themselves

Last Updated: November 15, 2011 @ 11:59 AM


Don’t task us to be the internet’s coastal defense against pirates.

That was the message from Google, Facebook and a retinue of the other internet giants in a letter to Congressional leaders Tuesday. The letter expressed the internet behemoths’ concerns about the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is  designed to combat rogue websites that traffic in counterfeit or pirated material.

The House Judiciary Committee is set to weigh the bill Wednesday.

While the companies support more Justice Department authority to shut down foreign websites that traffic in everything from bogus pharmaceuticals to pirated films, they contend that the new law would, among other things, force the tech giants themselves to police the internet.

“Unfortunately, the bill as written would expose law-abiding U.S. internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action and technology mandates that would require monitoring of websites,” reads the letter, which was also signed by eBay and Twitter.

Also read: Bitter Pill: Google Forfeits $500M Generated by Online Canadian Pharmacies

Tuesday’s letter asks Congress to reconsider the legislation and to explore methods to root out the pirates “while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.”

For its part, Google has already run into trouble while dealing with websites peddling questionable goods.

In August, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company agreed to cough up $500 million in fines after a federal inquiry revealed it had accepted advertising money from Canadian-based entities offering illegal pharmaceuticals.

A group of public interest groups, including Public Knowledge, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Tech Freedom and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also oppose the legislation as written.

In a letter sent Monday, the groups express their worry about unforeseen “real-world” effects the law could have upon “the due process and free speech rights of law-abiding internet users around the world.”

Not only could the legislation potentially “undermine the very rule of law the bill’s supporters want to defend,” write the public interest groups, but “so, too, would long-standing U.S. foreign policy goals of promoting democracy be undermined if this bill unintentionally serves to validate subtle forms of censorship by authoritarian regimes.” 

Meanwhile, the entertainment industry supports the bill. According to Creative America, an anti-piracy organization, more than 500,000 illegal online movie transactions occur each day worldwide via rogue websites.