The People Trying To Ruin The Internet: Joe Lieberman (UPDATE)


At the Voice, we have been regularly following internet policy developments. We figured it would be cool — maybe even a public service? — to ID people who keep pushing for web-killing proposals such as SOPA and PIPA in this new, occasional feature: “The People Trying To Ruin The Internet.” Enjoy!

Sen. Joseph Lieberman didn’t need SOPA/PIPA to make our list!

Just look at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chair’s lengthy record on internet policy issues.

Lieberman didn’t just condemn Wikileaks’ decision in December 2010 the whistle-blowing website’s decision to release some 250,000 diplomatic cables: He went on the attack against the organization and media outlets sympathetic to the project.

For starters, here are some of the things he had to say:

“It is an outrageous, reckless, and despicable action that will undermine the ability of our government and our partners to keep our people safe and to work together to defend our vital interests. Let there be no doubt: the individuals responsible are going to have blood on their hands. I stand in full support of the Obama Administration’s condemnation of Wikileaks for these disclosures. I also urge the Obama Administration — both on its own and in cooperation with other responsible governments around the world — to use all legal means necessary to shut down Wikileaks before it can do more damage by releasing additional cables. Wikileaks’ activities represent a shared threat to collective international security.”

Now, here are some of the things he did: He pressured Amazon into dropping its hosting relationship with Wikileaks, and then issued a statement telling other American businesses not to work with the website.

Lieberman called for a Justice Department investigation of the New York Times for publishing info from the cables. Then, he introduced anti-Wikileaks legislation by pitching an amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act that would make illegal publishing the name of any intel source, Wired notes.

Legal analysts have called the proposed revision an attack on free speech:

“although this Act may well be constitutional as applied to a government employee who unlawfully “leaks” such material to persons who are unauthorized to receive it, it is plainly unconstitutional as applied to other individuals or organizations who might publish or otherwise disseminate the information after it has been leaked. With respect to such other speakers, the Act violates the First Amendment unless, at the very least, it is expressly limited to situations in which the dissemination of the specific classified information at issue poses a clear and present danger of grave harm to the nation.”

Later, Lieberman pushed for Blogger to have a “terrorist” button so readers could flag suspicious content, and sent a letter to YouTube condemning the site for “doing enough to remove YouTube videos that were violent or could be used by terrorist groups to enlist followers,” CNET notes.

Lieberman also sponsored the Internet Kill Switch Bill. Though the most polemic portion — which would have basically authorized the President to shut down the internet — has been removed from the pending legislation, it nevertheless requires “critical infrastructure” to meet mandatory cyber-security standards, the Christian Science Monitor reports. This has caused critics to claim that the independent senator’s new bill still doesn’t do enough to protect consumer privacy.

And let’s not forget: on top of all this, Lieberman fucking hates zombie video games.

Starting Tuesday, we tried to get comment from the senator. A rep from Lieberman’s office said, however, that she would speak with the Voice today, so we’ll update if we hear back.

UPDATE: Leslie Phillips, spokeswoman for Lieberman, countered that the Senator is not trying to control the internet — just that he’s trying to address national security concerns.

“Senator Lieberman has a very strong record of pushing for transparency and open government, but he is very concerned about our national security. We already know, and the national security community has already said, that [cyber-crime] is about to overtake terrorism as the greatest threat to the nation,” she said.

“The Senator believes we should be smart and protect ourselves. He’s not interested in censoring or limiting information. [With regards to] Wikileaks, the Senator thought that the cables might actually damage our relationship with foreign governments and our national security.”

Phillips pointed the Voice to Lieberman’s support of the Whistleblower Protection Bill and STOCK Act, as well as past advocacy of ethics reform, to say that he is pro-transparency.