November 28, 2012
In an unusual step, a U.S. congressman is proposing a two-year ban on all new federal legislation regulating the Internet.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California who has been an advocate for Internet freedoms, has posted online a draft of his legislation, the Internet American Moratorium Act of 2012. The bill would “create a two-year moratorium on any new laws, rules or regulations governing the Internet.”
Issa first posted the complete text of the bill Monday on Project Madison, the nickname for a crowdsourcing platform that allows citizens to amend individual passages of legislation by adding or striking language. On Tuesday, he posted a link to the bill on Reddit, the social news site, where users quickly voted it to the top.
“Together, we can make Washington take a break from messing w/ the Internet,” Issa said on Reddit, where he also invited users to suggest changes to the proposed bill. He said he will begin taking questions about it from Reddit users Wednesday morning.
Issa is one of the more tech-fluent members of Congress and was an outspoken critic of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have penalized websites that host pirated content. That bill died this year amid near-unanimous opposition from the technology industry.
It was not immediately clear whether Issa’s moratorium would apply to his own Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act, which would seek to protect U.S. copyrights and trademarks from infringement by foreign websites.
Initial reaction on Reddit to his proposed moratorium was mixed. Some users were confused about what point Issa was trying to make, while others saw the move as a stunt.
“I have a problem with legislation that preemptively ties your hands for years at a time. You can’t know what the internet or society will look like in six months, let alone two years, and making it harder to respond to emerging threats or opportunities is an abdication of your responsibilities as a member of Congress,” wrote one Reddit user. “This just seems to me to be more cheap political theater, along the lines of Grover Norquist’s ‘We will never ever ever raise taxes for any reason’ pledge.”
“The answer is NOT to ban new regulation. We need regulation,” another said. “But, I don’t believe ANYBODY in Congress has the vocabulary, is intelligent in knowing how the internet or computers work, or has the foresight to put current trends and future technologies together in a context to create those new regulation that protect the internet and it’s users/consumers.”
Issa’s Reddit post had drawn more than 2,000 comments by early Wednesday.
Leslie Horn, writing for Gizmodo, also dismissed Issa’s idea.
“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,” she wrote. “As it stands now, IAMA is just a discussion draft, meaning it will be a very long time before it’s even close to a vote. And while we’re for an open internet, a blanket ban is a bad idea. Let’s think about this one a little more, Rep. Issa.”
When asked why the congressman introduced the bill, a spokesman for Issa told CNN, “After SOPA and PIPA (the Senate’s similar Protect Intellectual Property Act), it became very clear that we needed a cooling-off period to figure out a better way to create policy that impacts Internet users, job creators and all Americans.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be named, declined further comment Tuesday.