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Digital rights groups warn that TPP "will criminalize our online activities, censor the Web, and cost everyday users money." (Photo: Getty)

Groups Issue Warning: Pro-Corporate TPP Could Kill the Internet

"What we're talking about here is global Internet censorship."

Deirdre Fulton

The "disastrous" pro-corporate trade deal finalized Monday could kill the Internet as we know it, campaigners are warning, as they vow to keep up the fight against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

"Internet users around the world should be very concerned about this ultra-secret pact," said OpenMedia's digital rights specialist Meghan Sali. "What we’re talking about here is global Internet censorship. It will criminalize our online activities, censor the Web, and cost everyday users money. This deal would never pass with the whole world watching—that’s why they’ve negotiated it in total secrecy."

"The TPP will criminalize our online activities, censor the Web, and cost everyday users money. This deal would never pass with the whole world watching—that’s why they’ve negotiated it in total secrecy." —Meghan Sali, Open Media

TPP opponents have claimed that under the agreement, "Internet Service Providers could be required to 'police' user activity (i.e. police YOU), take down Internet content, and cut people off from Internet access for common user-generated content."

Among the deal's provisions are rules that could criminalize file-sharing, whistleblowing, and breaking digital locks, even for legitimate purposes. Of course, because the contents of the pact have been negotiated largely in secret, the exact implications of the TPP on user rights is yet to be seen. 

However, Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Maira Sutton wrote on Monday, "We have no reason to believe that the TPP has improved much at all from the last leaked version released in August, and we won't know until the U.S. Trade Representative releases the text. So as long as it contains a retroactive 20-year copyright term extension, bans on circumventing DRM, massively disproportionate punishments for copyright infringement, and rules that criminalize investigative journalists and whistleblowers, we have to do everything we can to stop this agreement from getting signed, ratified, and put into force."

Furthermore, "The fact that close to 800 million Internet users' rights to free expression, privacy, and access to knowledge online hinged upon the outcome of squabbles over trade rules on cars and milk is precisely why digital policy consideration[s] do not belong in trade agreements," Sutton added, referring to the auto and dairy tariff provisions that reportedly held up the talks.

"The fact that close to 800 million Internet users' rights to free expression, privacy, and access to knowledge online hinged upon the outcome of squabbles over trade rules on cars and milk is precisely why digital policy consideration[s] do not belong in trade agreements."  —Maira Sutton, EFF

With a major protest against the TPP and other secret trade deals planned for November in Washington, D.C., EFF is crowdsourcing slogans related to how the TPP threatens digital rights and freedoms around the world.

"Successive leaks of the TPP have demonstrated that unless you are a big business sector, the [U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR] simply doesn't care what you have to say," wrote EFF's Jeremy Malcolm.

"Enough's enough," reads the group's call-to-action. "The time for whitepapers and presentations is past. The USTR has failed us, so now it's time for the public to rise up and take their message about the TPP's threats to user rights to Congress, which has the ultimate authority to approve or reject the deal for the United States."


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