White House addresses SOPA concerns


The White House issued a statement on the controversial SOPA online piracy debate on Saturday saying it will not support legislation that allows censorship, but also acknowledged the need of antipiracy legislation.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” three White House officials said in the joint statement.

The SOPA bill which is currently being debated in Congress has been a hot topic among free speech advocates, tech companies and the entertainment industry. The proposed legislation could potentially allow the government and individual copyright holders to shut down websites and users involved in copyright infringement.

SOPA opponents include Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, the ACLU, Reporters Without Borders and the Human Rights Watch. The debate has become controversial to the point that hacker groups publicly threatened to launch attacks against the US government if the bill passes. 

The public outcry of SOPA has not fallen deafly on Congress. Rep. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of SOPA biggest backers, said he plans to remove a provision that would require Internet service providers to block access to overseas Web sites accused of piracy, CNET reported

More from GlobalPost: In response to SOPA, Anonymous hackers target US government 

Politico described the White House statement as their attempt to “walk a thin line,” between free speech advocates and powerful interest groups for the bill.

Politico wrote:

“Some of the president's biggest supporters in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and beyond are sharply divided over the bills, and the White House needs a way to keep both sides happy…

And where President Barack Obama comes down has been closely watched — because of his image as a technology guy, someone who harnessed the Web and young Internet users to win the presidency.

The administration did not take a definitive position on SOPA or PIPA on Saturday. But it was clear that the White House — while calling pirated movies and knockoff pharmaceuticals on the Web "a real problem" in need of a legislative solution — isn't enamored of either bill.”

More from GlobalPost: Internet engineers band together against SOPA 

The released statement also was a request to the public to help collaborate and create a bi-partisan deal that can satisfy both parties:

“The Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.” 

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.