ELMSFORD, N.Y. – While visiting Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist or a variety of other different sites this week, residents were greeted with "dark" or censored sites. The censorship was in response to two divisive anti-piracy bills.
The bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), intend to put an end to copyright violations and stop the online breach of intellectual property. While some Greenburgh and Elmsford residents acknowledge the sentiment behind the bills, they said that the legislation takes it too far. Some residents are angry, while others said that they saw it coming.
"The government is trying to censor the Internet and it violates the first amendment," said Greenburgh resident Marques Younger. "The sites I like to visit most could be shut down, like YouTube or TheOatmeal. There is nothing bad about stopping piracy or enforcing copyright laws, but the bill takes it to a level that is just wrong."
While New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, co-sponsors of the bills, said that they hope for a resolution that stops piracy while not infringing on public expression, Younger said that he worries about his own site being censored if the bills get passed.
"Even my site could be taken offline if the government decides that what I'm hosting violates copyright laws," he said. "So me posting something as simple as a drum cover could violate the bill and have my site taken offline."
Elmsford resident Rosalee Heard used to visit YouTube daily when friends sent her videos about religion and enlightenment, but she prefers reading about it instead.
"It is most unfortunate that the government has so much control," said Heard. "This is another way of trying to stop important information from reaching people. Aside from all the foolishness that you can find online, there has been some very important information that has come across the Internet."
Heard said that the government is starting to lose control as they notice the abundance of information online that does not support all of the government's policies and opinions.
"People are now starting to make decisions for themselves," said Heard. "The people in control see this as a threat, so they say, 'Let's inconvenience the people, take away the freedom of the Internet, make them pay.'"
The SOPA and PIPA bills will be voted on in the State Senate on Jan. 24.