WASHINGTON -- The progressive advocacy group Demand Progress is taking a stand against Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), amid rumors that he is being considered as a potential replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The group is arguing that Berman's work on a host of controversial Internet issues, particularly his advocacy for the Stop Online Piracy Act, disqualifies him from the position.
"It's outrageous that Berman's name is even being floated for secretary of state, where he'd play a key role in developing global Internet policy," Demand Progress executive director David Segal told HuffPost. "He's made a career of shilling for Hollywood, and Hollywood's been leading the charge for Internet censorship here at home and abroad -- backing SOPA, compelling the government to block access to scores of sites, and even having website owners extradited for posting links to Hollywood movies."
Berman's office was unavailable to comment on a federal holiday. Due to redistricting, this year Berman lost to fellow Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman in a bid for reelection.
SOPA failed in January 2012 after scores of Internet websites and advocates warned that it would violate free speech protections and do irreparable damage to the web. At the time, the Obama administration was divided over the legislation, with some officials who had longstanding relationships with the entertainment industry quietly praising the bill. But the State Department was packed with SOPA opponents, who viewed the bill as inconsistent with the department's own global call for Internet freedoms.
SOPA would have given the government wide powers to censor sites, including the ability to black out entire Internet domains based on the activity of a few users. Twitter, for instance, could be taken down over a tweet linking to an illegal song. This kind of activity, known as DNS blocking, has been explicitly criticized by the State Department when used in China.
Berman ensnared Clinton in a minor misunderstanding during the legislative wrangling over SOPA. In the late fall of 2011, Clinton wrote a noncommittal letter to Berman that argued ending illegal piracy and protecting Internet freedom were compatible policy goals. Although the letter was written prior to SOPA's introduction in the House, Berman and the Motion Picture Association of America touted the letter as evidence of support for the bill. The State Department was forced to clarify that it had not taken a position on the legislation, as the White House had not done so.
Berman is just one of several names that have been floated as a potential replacement for Clinton, who is widely expected to leave at the end of President Barack Obama's first term, a common move for cabinet officials. Others who are rumored to be up for consideration include Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Susan Rice, currently U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.