As part of a weeklong event put on by the Wisconsin Union Directorate, a panel Monday night featuring University of Wisconsin professors highlighted forms of and controversies with human rights on the internet.
The event, Human Rights Awareness Week, which has taken place for the past three years, focuses on various aspects of human rights and invites students to partake in the discussion.
Donald Downs, political science professor, Dietram Scheufele, life sciences communications professor, and librarian Dorothea Salo came together to speak in front of a group of students and members of the UW community regarding censorship and online rights.
The discussion provided interested students with information about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which are bills that aim to prevent online piracy.
Downs detailed forms of illegal speech, including inciting unlawful action, damaging words, disruptive speech at schools and child pornography.
Scheufele said people who engage in social interaction, such as YouTube and Facebook, are broadcasting their content for free, as the information on these sites can be posted and re-posted by any person for no cost.
Scheufele said technology and communication have changed in recent years to include communication through the Internet, such as email. Scheufele said the SOPA and PIPA legislation are essentially trying to legally organize communication.
SOPA and PIPA are stuck at a point where legislators do not know how to execute the material without infringing on the First Amendment, Sheufele said.
Salo said if both laws passed, Google would have to delete all links to infringing sites, and those infringing sites would be deleted from the Internet.
She also discussed the legal effects of SOPA and PIPA laws. If a website was caught infringing information, there would be an instant accusation, Salo said.
“There would only be one step for YouTube, and that would be deleting the video which had violated copyright laws,” Salo said.
UW junior Caroline Barry said she attended the discussion because she wanted to learn more about the SOPA and PIPA acts and how they could affect her.
Barry also said using the Internet is a necessity when it comes to researching topics for her biochemistry major.
“Being a biochemistry major deals with a lot of research, and if there weren’t as many links to reliable sources on search engines, my research would become a lot harder,” Barry said.
The rest of WUD’s Human Rights Awareness Week will continue with other presentations and discussions of current issues around the globe.
Adrianna Viswanatha contributed to this article.