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California representative proposes task force for Internet freedom

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Would the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) have come to a vote if a dedicated advisor on Internet freedom told Congress it was a terrible idea?

House Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), hopes the answer is no. She introduced a bill Friday, called the Global Free Internet Act of 2012, that would create a task force charged with ensuring future laws wouldn’t interfere with a free Internet.

Theoretically, this would prevent another instance of the infamous SOPA and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which Congress addressed in January. The language of those bills could have inadvertently restructured the architecture of the Internet—something most members of Congress seemed unaware of until there was a massive popular protest against them.

The task force would also have a secondary function: to create an annual report to the president that monitors both American and foreign threats to Internet freedom.

Though the task force would be limited to advisory power, the public would have substantial input in its assembly. Four of its members would be non-government employees, nominated online and appointed by the president. A federal registry would log users’ comments and suggestions for the task force’s annual report.

Lofgren, who introduced a similar, failed bill in 2010, has been vocal lately about supporting Internet freedom. Echoing Sen. Ron Wyden, on Friday Lofgren urged President Obama, who is considering enacting an executive order on cybersecurity, to make sure any new mandates only apply to critical infrastructure rather than to the Internet at large. She also was one of four Democratic members of the House to urge their party to officially adopt language from the Declaration of Internet Freedom, though the party didn’t take the suggestion.

“When the next SOPA-like legislation, restrictive international trade agreement, or overbroad treaty from an international body becomes a threat, it is the job of this Task Force to sound the alarm and propose a course of action,” reads an statement on Lofgren’s website.

Photo via Representative Zoe Lofgren/Facebook