One of the most often-heard retorts to the domain blocking provisions of SOPA, is that where there’s a will to circumvent them, there will be a way. Although most people know that VPNs and proxies can prove useful, there is also a new generation of solutions such as those provided by MafiaaFire and Newzbin2. But history shows us that for every trusted solution, dozens more will pop up, each aiming to scam and defraud unsuspecting Internet users.
Just before Christmas the MPAA published a blog post which looked at DNS filtering, why apparently it’s a good thing, and how it won’t break the Internet.
“There is nothing new about the techniques of domain blocking used to target criminals in the Stop Online Piracy Act,” the MPAA’s Paul Hortenstine wrote.
“They are currently used to protect consumers and combat all kinds of harmful behavior including spam, phishing, malware, viruses, copyright infringement and other forms of Internet crime,” he added.
But anyone with an understanding of the file-sharing space during the last decade will know that what SOPA domain blocking will actually bring is a whole lot more phishing, scams, malware and viruses. And here’s why.
Once SOPA kicks in, millions of people will suddenly lose access to potentially hundreds, maybe even thousands of websites. Since people generally do not like being restricted online, particularly when they are stopped from doing something they were previously allowed to partake in, the market for circumvention solutions, such as VPNs, will go into overdrive.
Unusually, Hortenstine references a recent one in his article – the MAFIAAFire Firefox plug in. Even more surprisingly, its inclusion in the blog post actually shows the tool in a positive light, in an attempt to show that domain blocking workarounds don’t always have to “break the Internet”.
Indeed, the client created by Newzbin2 to nullify ISP blocks in the UK also achieves its purpose without breaking the Internet, but already we are witnessing the start of a trend – third party software being made available to counter a growing problem – web censorship.
Now, we’re pretty sure that the MAFIAAFire and Newzbin2 people can be trusted not to stab web users in the back, but what will happen as soon as sites start getting censored under SOPA is that software created by Gods-knows-who will come onto the market with grand promises of re-enabling access to sites.
Some of these new breeds of tools will do as they say and will definitely come with fairly innocent adware to generate some revenue for their creators. Many, however, will screw over anyone who dares to install them. Malware, scamware, viruses and phishing attacks will all play their part. These practices have been happening to a certain extent in the file-sharing space for a decade already, but domain censorship will give the conmen a much-needed boost.
Contrary to claims that domain blocking won’t affect trust in the Internet, users seeking to legitimately access domains that have done no wrong (DaJaZ1 anyone?) or that are entirely legal in their own countries outside the United States, will be redirected to sites that look just like the previously blocked ones, but with nefarious tricks up their sleeves.
There are already many ‘fake’ sites around, such as those trying to pass themselves off as The Pirate Bay, but since they aren’t the real deal the amount of traffic they currently get is limited. Should the real Pirate Bay disappear from Google, these fake sites will appear at the top of the search giant’s results, and pull in a hell of a lot of money. Real Pirate Bay is free to use, these others require credit cards.
There is a huge mess just waiting to happen and if SOPA passes we won’t have to wait long to experience it. The Internet may not completely break, but it won’t be a safer place, that’s guaranteed.