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By Africa S. Hands


Abstract:

Last night I attended a meeting of a speakers' group. We meet regularly to practise our public speaking skills and receive feedback from one another in an effort to improve. The main topic of discussion last night, a topic I presented to the group, was a recent co-ed by Vinton Cerf on whether internet access is a human right.


Item:

Last night I attended a meeting of a speakers' group. We meet regularly to practise our public speaking skills and receive feedback from one another in an effort to improve. The main topic of discussion last night, a topic I presented to the group, was a recent co-ed by Vinton Cerf on whether internet access is a human right. According to Cerf, “The internet has introduced an enormously accessible and egalitarian platform for creating, sharing and obtaining information on a global scale. As a result, we have new ways to allow people to exercise their human and civil rights. In this context, engineers have not only a tremendous obligation to empower users, but also an obligation to ensure the safety of users online. That means, for example, protecting users from specific harms like viruses and worms that silently invade their computers. Technologists should work toward this end.”

As it goes with a speakers' group, we learn a lot about each other’s views which, last night, did not support the internet as a human right, particularly if it is unregulated. Talk of internet regulation issues got me thinking about another hot topic – the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA). As an information professional it was high time I sought resources, for and against SOPA, to understand the bill better. Supporters of the bill are varied, ranging from media companies such as ABC and ESPN to information vendors commonly used by information professionals (e.g., Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer Health) and education businesses including Pearson Education and Scholastic, Inc. The list of supporters suggests that SOPA is about more than piracy and bootleg movies; perhaps the bill is in line with my colleagues' viewpoints as it relates to regulation.

So where does one begin to understand this complex issue? Staff at The Guardian produced a quick, entertaining video as a guide to the bill. Patrons and clients are likely to turn to librarians and information professionals for guidance. Direct them to the full text of the bill, and then address their concerns. The movement against SOPA has, of course, gone mobile with an app that scans products and tells users if they have products from a SOPA-supporting brand. With all the coverage of the bill’s opponents, statements of support are getting buried. Whichever side you fall on regarding SOPA, the bill is expected to go to Senate for a vote later this month, so it’s time to get clear on what’s at stake.


 

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Africa S. Hands is an independent librarian with a focus on helping professionals understand and utilise social media and search engines through one-on-one tutorials and small group workshops. Africa tweets (@africahands) on resources of interest to information and higher education professionals.

Africa can be reached at africa.hands@freepint.com

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