Corporate SOPA opponents approve of CISPAApril 12, 2012: 3:43 PM ET
The new bill is being called "the new SOPA." This time, Internet companies are onboard.
FORTUNE -- Those who believed that the tech industry opposed the now-"dead" anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA purely because they made for bad law might be confused by the industry's backing of a new law, CISPA, that's being called "the new SOPA." It isn't quite that, however. Big Tech is all for it. That's because, unlike SOPA and PIPA, it absolves Internet companies ot any responsibility or liability in the battle against Internet "security threats."
The problem with CISPA -- the Cyberintelligence Sharing and Protection Act -- is that it could be interpreted in such a way that just about any online activity, including alleged piracy, could be considered a security threat. It must be noted that, unlike under SOPA or PIPA, Internet companies can refuse requests for information -- compliance is voluntary.
The usual suspects oppose the bill: the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and lots of people on social media sites. Their main problem is that the bill allows companies to share data with each other, as well as with the government, and there's no real limit on what kinds of data they can share, or on what they can do with it.
But it might be much more difficult for opponents this time, writes PC Magazine's Fahmida Y. Rashid, because "the battle against CISPA is dramatically different from what happened with SOPA and PIPA. This time, a lot of the corporations are not on their side." Among the companies that have explicitly expressed their support for the bill: Microsoft (MSFT), Facebook, AT&T (T), Intel (INTC), and Verizon (VZ).
Some of those companies, particularly Facebook, were vehemently opposed to SOPA and PIPA. Why then the support for a bill that, while different, nonetheless runs afoul of some of the same basic tenets the company upheld in that debate? Several reasons, according to ZDNet's Emil Protalisnki. Among the chief ones, he writes, is that CISPA "takes the pressure of regulating users off the company. While SOPA required private companies to monitor, and held them responsible for, what their users were doing, CISPA is written so the government is responsible."
Andrew Couts of Digital Trends believes that although tech- and privacy-minded folk online are up in arms, opposition might not spread to the population at large in the same way opposition to SOPA and PIPA did. Those bills threatened the very operation of the Internet, and were much bigger, or at least more direct, threats to free speech. Here, the issue is more about data privacy. "I just don't see every Jack, Jill, and John getting their knickers in a knot over something that sounds like what they do on a regular basis — share information — or which many people believe is already happening," Couts writes.