Facebook is an absolute phenomenon in the cyberspace community, but the proposed legislation that Congress has decided to table for now could have far-reaching impact on the world’s top social media outlet. The citizen journalism that is associated with Facebook accounts has done much to awaken those who are asleep politically. It is also a haven for what many content producers call online piracy, suggesting that the technology used within the framework of Facebook, and actually all other websites with user-generated content, is actually facilitating a breach of copyright laws.
Posting links to articles, music, and videos is a standard sharing practice on Facebook. The new legislation would make websites like Facebook responsible for the content that is generated by its users, effectively making Facebook and others like it the first-line policing agency for the activity. This law would make Facebook criminally complicit in all site activity, along with being civilly liable. The criminal fact could imply that the civil tort claim is valid even before a trial in which the intellectual property owner must prove ownership and prove a violation occurred.
The civil liability is probably the ultimate goal of this law, as the intellectual property owners do not only want the publication platforms to police the practice. The owners, which are mostly the large media conglomerates, want the authority to tell the government, without proof, that any suspected publication website should be removed or blocked from cyberspace. The service provider that is blocking can also be part of the group that is pinpointing censorship.
This would put Facebook front-and-center on the “blacklist” of “violators” and reduce the website to a collection of insignificant posts and pictures. What it effectively does in addition to possibly curtailing some online piracy is prevent individuals from sharing news articles and text publications, also. The impact it would have on political communication is incalculable. For example, the Occupy Wall Street movement was largely orchestrated on Facebook.
When this legislation is implemented in conjunction with the various sections of the National Defense Authorization Act it becomes a far over-reaching government policy that eliminates due process on two prongs. The legislative precedent of the NDAA allowing indefinite detainment for American citizens is problematic enough, but the governmental interference in the practice of file-sharing could easily be stretched beyond actual embedded copyrighted material to include all hyperlinks. This could also include individuals that are organizing politically based on current events.
What this all means for Facebook currently is an unstable economic environment. Goldman Sachs bought a huge amount of stock at Facebook’s initial public offering, along with “loaning” $450 million last summer. They now own enough stock to impact company policy. When all of the governmental and corporate activity is connected, it appears that Goldman Sachs expected this legislation to be rammed through Congress. They are a major stock holder in many of the companies that are pushing for SOPA and PIPA. And the end result could be an eventual complete shutdown for Facebook.