Firefox Add-on DeSopa developer Tamer Rizk was interviewed by International Business Times' A New Yorker's Opinion on Wednesday. The Firefox Add-on defeats the main mechanism in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill for blocking sites that have illegal copyrighted material. It is widely condemned by Internet experts, such as Rizk and others, as both impractical and destructive to security on the Internet.
Thursday, the Ad-On was gone for the entire morning. What you got on the Mozilla site was, We're sorry, but we can't find what you're looking for.
But not to worry, apparently a glitch in the Mozilla updating system was to blame, according to an email just received from Rizk. After he spent a trying morning reaching out to Mozilla, the site offficially responded that a known bug in their site that occurs during updating was the culprit and that it should be working now. As Rizk put it, The good guys have won.
That said, Rizk is taking no further chances. He has made the Add-On DeSopa available at Desopa.org, which points to his own site here, by clicking on the link underneath DNS Evasion to Stop Oppressive Policy in America.
Doing the DeSopa Firefox Add-On is not something he regrets, although it has not been a unanimous popularity contest on the instant poll known as the Internet. I have won some really good supporters, but am aware that it made a number of people quite unhappy. At the end of the day what was at stake is much bigger than me, or even any special interest. I would do it again if I had to.
We reached out to Rizk Wednesday to ask him some more general questions about his feelings about the Internet and what led him to do his DeSopa work:
IBT: Why Firefox? Are you planning to make this available on other browsers?
Rizk: I personally use Firefox, although Chrome is also an exceptional browser. A similar extension should be developed for Chrome, and the project was open sourced on GitHub to enable anyone to create one.
IBT: From your writing, which I quoted, you are clearly opposed to censorship and SOPA. Can you explain what motivated you to feel this way?
Rizk: The internet is a result of the collaborative effort of tens of thousands of brilliant minds who understand how the underlying technologies work together. The people supporting SOPA, however, come from a non-technical background. As they try to change how these things work in order to fit with their business models, they will most certainly break something, as is the case with SOPA. Would you let a chiropractor fix the car that you drive to work every day, against the express recommendations of your mechanic and the engineers that built it? The internet is the car that many of us drive to work every day, and almost everyone who understands what goes on under the hood are opposed to SOPA.
IBT: Tell us a little about your background. Your company and what else you are working on at present.
Rizk: My company, Inficron is a custom software shop. Although DeSopa is not really related to what we do, we are staunch proponents of the freedom of information. DeSopa came about after spending the past few weeks on the internet listening to the buzz about the fallout that would occur if SOPA is passed. Popular websites shutting down. Businesses moving offshore. A UK artist, Dan Bull, made a rap video about it. One of the few congressional leaders against the bill, Zoe Lofgren, whose district includes part of Silicon Valley, even called the bill the end of the internet as we know it. But the initial congressional hearings last week indicated that certain death by SOPA seemed inevitable. Many people were vocally signing petitions, but too few people were listening. I had to do something before the vote. I figured that I could pull an all-nighter coding a proof of concept showing that SOPA doesn't work and ended up with DeSopa by morning.
IBT: What is your perspective on the Web? Mobile browsing and other applications, including location-based ones, are increasingly being use. Can you talk a bit about your thoughts on where this will lead us, both in terms of daily uses, and in terms of privacy concerns?
Rizk: The internet as we know it is now converging with mobile computing to create what is known as the mobile web. Almost everyone is walking around with a device more powerful than their computers just ten years ago. I think that we will start to see mobile computing be used in ways that simplify day to day life. For example, what if instead of scouring a directory panel at a mall for D48-6, we could just enter jeans into a search bar on our phone and get product information and locations on a map? These kinds of services are right around the corner, and as they evolve I think that it is very important that they maintain the privacy of individuals using them.
IBT: Do you support BitTorrent? Do you support the platform and why is it important?
Rizk: BitTorrent is a very important piece of technology for reducing the impact of distributing large files. Believe it or not the protocol is responsible for over half of all web traffic.
IBT: What is your stance on copyright in the 21st century? Does it still protect creators?
Rizk: Copyright enforcement is a complex issue, and I am not an expert. While I do support copyright protection and think that it currently works, it can be bettered through fixing the DMCA. Many ideas have been proposed to do this such as, but not at all limited to, issuing take-down notices through a central authority that transparently publicizes requests while creating a formal and anonymous appellate process.
IBT: Despite your add-on, can the Internet still be shut down? What are the possible ways in which it can be done in America?
Rizk: The internet cannot be shut down. Too many smart people are too dependent on it and will find ways around draconian policy. What will happen if such policies are implemented is a loss of security, integrity and any regulatory control due to the destandardization of services and the formation of underground markets created as a natural response to such policy.
The mysterious disappearance of the extension this morning put quite the scare into Rizk and those of us here, too. Although it was just a glitch, it is an important reminder of exactly the sort of thing that could happen to a site if SOPA passed.