It's a volte-face that's got the whole internet freedom movement scratching its head. Last month Paul Brigner, the former chief technology officer of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), left the leading industry lobbying organisation to join the Internet Society – formerly known as the enemy.
A shock to the censors
The MPAA has been gung-ho for Sopa, the bill that would give US courts the power to censor entire websites on the basis of alleged violations of copyright, and Brigner had spoken up in its favour. The mission of the Internet Society, by contrast, is “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world”.
Brigner's job-switch startled web freedom advocates, some of whom wondered if the Internet Society was losing its grip. But in an open letter to sceptics, published on CNET, Brigner insisted that his thinking had genuinely changed: "The more I became educated on the realities of these issues, the more I came to the realisation that a mandated technical solution just isn't mutually compatible with the health of the internet."
That puts him in line with the hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members and other internet users who campaigned against Sopa earlier this year. Now all we need is for governments to get the hang of the internet, and understand that trying to control it does more harm than good.
Take action: Join the hundreds of thousands who have signed the latest Avaaz petition to stop laws that would allow the government and private corporations to spy on us online.