Pols To Ad Networks: Pretend We Passed SOPA, And Never Mind About Violating Antitrust Law

Mitch Stoltz | Electronic Frontier Foundation | May 8, 2014

A group of United States Senators and Representatives is asking Internet advertising networks to create a blacklist of alleged "piracy sites" and refuse to serve ads to those sites. If this idea sounds familiar, that's probably because it was an integral part of the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, legislation that was stopped in its tracks two years ago after a massive protest by Internet users.

It's disturbing that members of Congress are pressuring ad networks to follow a law that Congress didn’t pass, and probably never will.  But it's downright shocking for them to ask ad networks that compete with one another to agree amongst themselves that they won’t do business with certain websites. That sounds a lot like a “concerted refusal to deal” - a classic violation of antitrust law.

The letters came from Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Adam Schiff, and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Orrin Hatch. They praise the ad networks for issuing several best practices statements, which called for "commercially reasonable" methods to avoid placing ads on "rogue sites." Those best practice statements were part of a larger push by big entertainment companies, their friends in Congress, and the White House "IP Czar" to coax the Internet's gatekeepers into "voluntary agreements" for making sites disappear from the Internet when Big Content wanted them gone...