So far, so SOPA: Web campaigners to protest world's biggest ever free trade deal

Worries over increased censorship despite stalled talks


Internet activists are planning a major on- and offline protest at what has been described as a "secretive, SOPA-like" agreement being hammered out as the world's largest economies attempt to agree the world's biggest ever free trade deal.

They argue the pact will lead to greater web censorship, even though talks between the US and Japan stalled this week.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been in the pipeline since 2010 and involves liberalising agreements on trade and other issues between stakeholders including the US, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam.

Amongst other things, the US-led treaty has proposed criminal sanctions on copyright infringement and – according to rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation – could force ISPs to monitor and censor content more rigorously and even block sites wholesale if requested by rights holders.

As a result, the Internet Defense League is planning a high profile protest which will involve shining a “Stop The Secrecy” message on various “key buildings” in Washington DC on 30 April – when US President Barack Obama returns from his Asia trip.

The rights group is also urging webmasters to flash up its “Cat Signal” in support of the protest by inserting a chunk of code in their sites.

It sent the following message in an email sent to members:

Unfortunately, we thought this type of wholesale internet censorship died after our historic victory against SOPA. But it looks like some of the worst parts of SOPA have found their way into the TPP.

And the agreement is huge: covering 40 per cent of the global economy, and once key leaders finalise TPP internet censorship plans in coming days it will be used to globalise censorship across the world.

Internet users everywhere will be affected and this may be our only chance to stop it.

Ironically, the internet campaigners currently don’t seem to have much to worry about, with talks even between the US and Japan failing to produce a breakthrough this week while Obama was in Tokyo.

There have now been a whopping 20 rounds of negotiation over the past few years, although the US still believes it can complete an agreement by the end of 2014. ®

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