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Comments Off on Twitter Use and Your Career

Twitter Use and Your Career

by Anita Brady

How Some Pro Athletes’ Mistakes Provide Important Lessons for Those in the Business World

Social networking sites like Twitter can be useful resources in the search to find a job. However, once you secure a position, the information you share online can become a liability. The experience of several high profile professional athletes illustrates that point. Below are six tips to ensure that your Twitter use doesn’t negatively impact your career.

  1. Don’t Tweet About Inappropriate Topics 

    Certain topics like religion and politics often hit a nerve with people, so tweeting your strong opinions about these issues could lead to controversy. That’s particularly true if your opinions may offend or alienate some of your coworkers or superiors, or even your clients. Other sensitive subjects, including off-color or tasteless remarks, should also be avoided. Houston Texan Kareem Jackson learned that the hard way. Jackson proudly posted photos on Twitter documenting his attendance at a cockfighting match in the Dominican Republic. Animal lovers were enraged, and it seriously damaged his reputation. Jackson would now probably agree that before tweeting about an issue, it’s prudent to consider who you might offend and how it might impact your job and professional reputation.


  2. Don’t Tweet about Your Superiors 

    When using Twitter, it may be helpful to adhere to the old adage “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Complaints about a specific person, when expressed on the internet, are likely to make their way to the target of the grievance. Therefore, broadcasting criticism of your boss can land you in hot water. No one knows about that better than NFL player Larry Johnson, who publicly insulted his coach via Twitter. The stunt eventually cost Johnson his job.


  3. Don’t Tweet about Your Working Conditions 

    Just as tweeting about a specific person could jeopardize your career, publicly criticizing the conditions in the office can lead to trouble. Although discussing (and even complaining about) one’s working conditions may be protected under federal labor laws, publicly exposing your gripes about your work is not a good career move. In 2009, San Diego Chargers’ cornerback Antonio Cromartie blasted his team for serving “nasty food” at its training camp. If the criticism had been delivered privately to management it may have been considered constructively. However, Cromartie decided to express his frustrations via Twitter, which led to embarrassment for the team and a fine for Cromartie.


  4. Don’t Engage in a Twitter Fight 

    If you’re the subject of public criticism, responding on Twitter in an aggressive manner can lead to a prolonged exchange of embarrassing attacks that appear petty and childish. Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings found himself in a Twitter war of words with someone posing as Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Farmar. The jabs going back and forth made Jennings look foolish, especially when it was revealed that the real Jordan Farmar wasn’t actually involved in the argument. The better approach is to pick your battles. If the initial attack contains false information that could damage your reputation, responding to correct the inaccuracies is appropriate if done in a professional manner. However, if the criticism doesn’t seem credible on its face, the best policy is to ignore it.


  5. Don’t Air Your Dirty Laundry on Twitter 

    Good things seldom come from voluntarily publicly revealing the intimate details of our private lives or our personal problems. Case in point: NFL player Jabar Gaffney. The fallout was fast and harsh when Gaffney tweeted hurtful things about his wife, his cousin, and another NFL player. Although Gaffney later claimed that his account had been hacked, the damage was done. Quite simply, broadcasting personal information makes people vulnerable to criticism and ridicule. Instead, when sharing personal information via Twitter or any other social networking platform, it’s best to keep it simple and refrain from revealing too much.


  6. Don’t Tweet at Work 

    Companies don’t pay employees to play around on the internet. Therefore, many employers impose strict policies prohibiting use of social networking sites while on the job. The NFL enacted a similar rule, which New England Patriot Chad Ochocinco violated by tweeting during a game. The result was a $25,000.00 fine. In the business world, employers are monitoring internet usage more and more, so employees should save the tweets until after clocking out.

Anita Brady is the President of

Editor’s Note: The advice above for Twitter applies to other social media as well. In today’s environment, it’s best to keep your privacy settings high in all media where you reveal personal information, and even better for your job prospects if you have nothing available but contact info and a CV for prospective employers.

Comments Off on Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Guest post by Jennifer Vessels,
CEO, Next Step Consulting

Start the year by taking charge of your success. While economic uncertainty continues there is positive growth and momentum in many markets. Minimize your uncertainty by developing a plan for a profitable 2013.

Next Step’s five proven growth tips are:

  1. Evaluate your staff and upgrade employees to “A” players that can take your business to the next level of profitability.
  2. Study your operating processes to find bottlenecks, waste and inefficiencies.
  3. Build incentive plans to drive revenue and profitability.
  4. Reinvent marketing to communicate the unique value you bring to the target market.
  5. Measure your customer experience to improve overall satisfaction and increase revenues with existing and referred customers.

Sign-up for our free upcoming webinar:
Economic and Business Model Changes Needed for Cloud

Growth and change can be challenging. Next Step can help you meet these challenges and achieve your revenue goals for 2013. If you are interested in finding out more about how we can help, click here to read more about the services that we offer.

Our services that lead to growth include:

  • Team Building
  • Sales Productivity
  • Employee Engagement
  • Executing Marketing Programs
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Strategic Planning

For more information about the author or Next Step Consulting, please visit

Comments Off on Top 5 Scams to Beware of With Social Media

Top 5 Scams to Beware of With Social Media

Original posted on Norton Security
(c) Studio One Networks

We’re wired to be social creatures, and sites like Twitter and Facebook have capitalized on this to great success. According to its COO Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook draws 175 million logins every day.

But with this tremendous popularity comes a dark side as well. Virus writers and other cybercriminals go where the numbers are — and that includes popular social media sites. To help you avoid a con or viral infection, we’ve put together this list of the top five social media scams.

5. Chain Letters

You’ve likely seen this one before — the dreaded chain letter has returned. It may appear in the form of, “Retweet this and Bill Gates will donate $5 million to charity!” But hold on, let’s think about this. Bill Gates already does a lot for charity. Why would he wait for something like this to take action? Answer: He wouldn’t. Both the cause and claim are fake.

So why would someone post this? Good question. It could be some prankster looking for a laugh, or a spammer needing “friends” to hit up later. Many well-meaning people pass these fake claims onto others. Break the chain and inform them of the likely ruse.

4. Cash Grabs

By their very nature, social media sites make it easy for us to stay in touch with friends, while reaching out to meet new ones. But how well do you really know these new acquaintances? That person with the attractive profile picture who just friended you — and suddenly needs money — is probably some cybercriminal looking for easy cash. Think twice before acting. In fact, the same advice applies even if you know the person.

Picture this: You just received an urgent request from one of your real friends who “lost his wallet on vacation and needs some cash to get home.” So, being the helpful person you are, you send some money right away, per his instructions. But there’s a problem: Your friend never sent this request. In fact, he isn’t even aware of it. His malware-infected computer grabbed all of his contacts and forwarded the bogus email to everyone, waiting to see who would bite.

Again, think before acting. Call your friend. Inform him of the request and see if it’s true. Next, make sure your computer isn’t infected as well.

3. Hidden Charges

“What type of STAR WARS character are you? Find out with our quiz! All of your friends have taken it!” Hmm, this sounds interesting, so you enter your info and cell number, as instructed. After a few minutes, a text turns up. It turns out you’re more Yoda than Darth Vader. Well, that’s interesting … but not as much as your next month’s cell bill will be. You’ve also just unwittingly subscribed to some dubious service that charges $9.95 every month.

As it turns out, that “free, fun service” is neither. Be wary of these bait-and-switch games. They tend to thrive on social sites.

Read the full article for all 5 social media scams…

Comments Off on DNSChanger Malware deadline is Monday. Are you ready?

DNSChanger Malware deadline is Monday. Are you ready?

By Fahmida Y. Rashid

Come Monday, there will be some people who won’t be able to get on the Internet from their computers. Will you be one of them? Hopefully not.

According to the latest FBI estimates from July 5, approximately 64,000 computers in the United States are expected to lose Internet access when the temporary Domain Name System servers are shut down July 9. The number is closer to 300,000, worldwide, with the top infections in the US, Italy, India, and Great Britain, Vikram Thakur, principal security response manager at Symantec, told Security Watch.

Wait, Why?
As PCMag previously reported, computers infected with the DNS Changer Trojan have been using rogue DNS servers instead of the default servers specified by their company and Internet service provider. DNS servers act as a phone directory for the Internet, translating domain names (say, to the server’s numeric address, and routing users to the correct website. The cyber-gang behind the malware was using rogue DNS servers to direct users to alternate sites.

After the gang was arrested in 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a court order allowing them to operate DNS servers with those IP addresses so that infected computers can remain online while they got cleaned up. The original cleanup deadline was in March, but has been extended to July 9. On Monday, that court order will expire and the servers will be shut down, leaving infected computers with no DNS server to send their Web requests.

“An educated guess is that the infections are primarily home or small business users,” Thakur said.

Cleanup Efforts
Considering the malware originally infected close to 1 million computers, coming down to 300,000 is pretty good. But according to the DNS Changer Working Group statistics, the number of infected machines has been stalled in this range since about mid-May.

It’s possible that some of the users are aware of the infection but have had no luck with the cleanup process. Perhaps they manually checked their computer’s DNS settings and didn’t see any malicious IP addresses, or they ran security scanning software and came up empty. The likely culprit, then, is that their routers were infected. PCMag’s Samara Lynn has put together a very simple guide to checking and fixing the home router to get back online.

It’s also possible that the owners of these yet-to-be-cleaned up computers don’t even know about these machines. Most infections began as a drive-by download, which seems to imply most infected machines are end-user desktops, Dan Brown, director of security research at Bit9, told Security Watch.

But DNS Changer has been around for a few years, and some of these devices may have been infected one or two years ago, Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research at Damballa, told Security Watch. Those devices may be “no longer used today as they were then,” Ollmann said. These are machines that haven’t been updated recently, have not browsed to popular sites recently, and network administrators might not know where the computers are physically located.

They will “only be noticed when they stop working for some reason,” Ollmann said.

Read the full article and learn the fix on PC Magazine…

Comments Off on Linked-In Security Breach May Require More Than a Password Update

Linked-In Security Breach May Require More Than a Password Update

by Andy Greenberg, Forbes, Inc.

The news came today that Linked-In security was breached and hackers had posted passwords online. Changing passwords is a good  idea on a regular basis, but may be required repeatedly as we learn in this article that appeared on

For a Web firm like LinkedIn, there’s a fate worse than confessing to a massive security breach: Failing to detect an ongoing one.

Hours after reports surfaced Wednesday that LinkedIn had suffered an intrusion by Russian hackers who leaked 6.5 million of the site’s’ passwords, Linkedin has yet to confirm that it’s either found or remediated the problem. “Our team is currently looking into reports of stolen passwords. Stay tuned for more,” the company wrote in its Twitter feed around 6am Pacific time Wednesday. Around 9am, it still hadn’t confirmed the leak: Our team continues to investigate, but at this time, we’re still unable to confirm that any security breach has occurred. Stay tuned here.”

Despite LinkedIn’s lack of a definitive response, two security firms–Sophos and Rapid7–have already confirmed the breach by finding users’ passwords in the leaked file posted online by hackers, according to the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal.

The file posted online by hackers contained 6.46 million LinkedIn passwords stored in a “hashed” form designed to be indecipherable if breached. But the company failed to “salt” its hashes, a process that adds random values to the data and makes it far harder to crack. It may be only a matter of time until users’ passwords are successful unscrambled; Posts to some password cracking forums indicated that as many as 300,000 of the passwords may have already been deciphered.

Many security experts have recommended that users change their passwords. But if LinkedIn’s hackers still have hidden access to the company’s servers, that may not be enough. “If LinkedIn hasn’t been able to confirm the breach, they havent fixed it either,” wrote Twitter’s security and cryptography guru Moxie Marlin in his Twitter feed. “You can change your PW, but attackers can just get it again.”

Read the full article…

Comments Off on Google Explains Over-Optimization

Google Explains Over-Optimization

In a recent article excerpted here by Jill Kocher at Practical Ecommerce,  we alerted you to a shift undergone at Google that would ostensibly reduce page rank for web sites that attempted to “game” the system by paying more attention to optimization than site quality.  That fact remains, but Google has come out with more details and Kocher has a follow up article that refers to it as more of an “evolution” than “revolution.

She continues, “Google’s much discussed over-optimization penalty turned out to be a moderate evolutionary step in Google’s site quality crusade. Launched April 24, Google wrote in a blog post of its update, “The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”

According to the Google blog post, an estimated 3.1 percent of U.S. search results will be affected by the algorithm update, while sites in countries like Poland that are more prone to produce webspam could see as high as 5 percent change in rankings. The algorithm will more aggressively penalize webspam tactics like keyword stuffing and irrelevant linking from sites that “spin” content with barely readable content. “Spinning” refers to the practice of scraping content from other sites and then manually or mechanically rearranging the words to create a “new” piece of content.

Is All SEO Webspam?

In its announcement, Google’s head webspam cop Matt Cutts also addressed the difference between search engine optimization and webspam. The first three paragraphs of the announcement details the difference between ethical or “white hat” SEO practices and manipulative “black hat” webspam under the guise of SEO. As an ethical SEO practitioner, I appreciate the vote of confidence for the SEO industry, but Google’s Cutts must really have felt under fire after his over-optimization comments last month to write such a missive. Cutts’ best advice is to focus on creating “amazing, compelling web sites.” That, to be sure, is not a newsflash to most ecommerce brands.

Read the full article…

Comments Off on Managing Your Reputation Online

Managing Your Reputation Online

The new space of reputation management online is booming.  Business Week describes it this way:

An industry of online fixers is sprouting to defend clients against damaging information on the Web. With potential customers increasingly heading online to research products and services, bad reviews or complaints that turn up in a search can mean lost business. Reputation management services promise to highlight positive pages and bury offending sites deep in search results.

Most reputation services work by tracking what’s written about a client on the Web, then doing search engine optimization (, 9/10/07), promoting positive pages, and creating other sites that will push damaging references off the first pages of search results. The services are pitched as another tool companies can use in their PR and marketing efforts.

But do these services work? Are they actually resolving misinformation, or simply covering up what’s out there so that it can’t be found?  For the fees some of these companies charge, you should be able to get what you need.  Several companies said the typical cost for a small business client starts at $1,000 a month. More extensive services marketed to large corporations run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

A new trade association, the Online Reputation Management Assn. is being formed to certify members and promote best practices, because no clear standards exist for what is and is not acceptable.  One thing is becoming clear, and that is you cannot simply hire a company to handle this activity and forget about it.  You need to be invovled in the process all the way.

Here’s a list to start you on the path:

Comparison of the Top Ten Firms:

Reputation Management Consultants
My Reputation Manager

What about your “personal” reputation?

When you share a name with a drug dealer, have an embarrassing photo showing up on Google, or just don’t have the most ideal search results when somebody looks up your name, it can be hard to get a job. has published articles on how you can better-manage your online reputation, but BrandYourself is a web app that’ll help you through the process so you don’t have to spend hours doing it all by yourself.

Once you sign up, you have to tell BrandYourself what you think of your current search results. It’ll pull up them up for you and you can mark them as positive, negative, or about someone who isn’t you. When you’re done, you’ll get a search result grade and tips on how to improve your results. Next you’ll create a profile that’ll be optimized to sit at the top of your search results.

Finally, you can submit positive links about yourself to help push them to the top of your results. You get three links for free. The premium service costs $10/month or $80/year (with other price points in between) and will allow you to submit an unlimited number of links. The service will also provide you with alerts about good and bad things happening with your search results so you can act accordingly. It’s a really nice way to stay on top of the way search engines see you.

Original review on

Comments Off on 12 Ways to Fuel Business Growth in 2012

12 Ways to Fuel Business Growth in 2012

Dan Bischoff, Lendio

Whether you want to expand operations, hire more employees or grow your business, it usually requires an influx of capital. But a majority of American business owners say they can’t get the credit they need. And almost half of small business owners cannot obtain financing. Yet, the funds are out there. In many ways, there is more funding available than ever. Business owners just need to know where to find it. Here is a comparison of 12 different forms of capital that business owners can seek to help take their business to the next level:

1. Friends, Family, Fools

What better way to get money than a loan from someone you know and trust, right? Sometimes, it might work out, but borrowing money from friends and family can be tricky if it’s not done right. Make sure to set everything up clearly from the beginning—that means having agreements in writing to protect all parties. While this may seem too formal, in the long run, you’ll be glad you did. Also, be careful of any guarantees when it comes to making a return on the investment.

2. Large SBA Loans – Up to $5 million

In 2011, the Small Business Administration (SBA) approved a record number and record amount of lending to small businesses. Small SBA loans are generally unsecured or lightly secured loans that provide the lender with government guarantees of up to 90%. Generally speaking, a borrower must have good credit, an accurate business plan, 2+ years in business, up-to-date financial projections, revenue, collateral, and not fall under restricted business industries.

3. Peer-to-Peer Loans

A peer-2-peer loan is an alternative to traditional lending, in which the borrower receives a loan from another individual rather than a lending institution. Lenders compete with each other to make loans in an almost eBay-style bidding manner. It often results in lower interest rates for borrowers than are available on unsecured loans from financing institutions.

4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a term used to describe individuals coming together to support—and directly fund—projects by other individuals and organizations. There are two kinds of crowdfunding: equity-based and reward-based. Equity-based is trading funds for ownership in your company. Rewards-based is trading funds for various types of rewards. Crowdfunding is only looking to get more popular in the future. Congress passed The Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act in November 2011, which will allow equity capital raises of up to $1 million annually for an unlimited number of nonaccredited investors.

5. Business-to-Business Lending – Up to $150,000

For some lenders, credit doesn’t matter. Hard to believe, right? On Deck Capital is one such lender—called a business-to-business lender—that looks at risk differently than a bank. Credit isn’t an issue. Cash flow is. On Deck will still pull your credit report, but will give a loan for $100,000 to someone with a 550 credit score, which a bank wouldn’t touch. On Deck gauges risk based on things like the past six months of deposits into the checking account and credit card swipes.

6. Startup Funding – Up to $0–$25,000

In recent years, startups have had the most difficult time getting financing—especially for loans of $25,000 or less. Superior is one company that has been leading the way for those looking smaller amounts of financing. It offers SBA-backed loans and in 2012 will offer a new product that takes data from 25 questions and offers immediate approval. In 2010, they were the leading SBA lender in the nation in terms of total number of loans funded.

7. Equipment Financing – No Limit

Equipment Financing is used exclusively to acquire business-use equipment, but can also be used to obtain cash on paid-off equipment. Approvals are typically based on credit score, collateral, financial history and value of the equipment.

8. AR and PO Financing – Minimum of $50,000

Account Receivable Factoring and/or Purchase Order Financing can be an ideal option to receive capital. These two categories serve as collateral for short-term working capital loans that you can obtain quickly and cost-effectively. Credit rating is key in determining eligibility for this loan category. Lenders will often look at your margins more than personal credit when determining approval.

9. Business Credit – $0–$20,000

Business credit usually comes in the form of business credit cards or bank account overdrafts, ranging from a few thousand dollars up to $100,000. Approvals are typically driven by credit score, debt ratios and credit inquiries. Small lines of credit generally refer to overdraft credit lines or business credit cards. Rates vary depending on the type of financing and a client’s profile.

10. Debt Consolidation

While it’s not exactly a way to get financing, debt consolidation is a way for businesses to save more money and, in some ways, could be better than getting a loan. One company, Corporate Turnaround, helps businesses get out of debt, mainly through debt consolidation and restructuring. They take what you can afford monthly and use that to negotiate with your creditors.

11. Acquisition Loan – Up to $5 million

If you need funds to buy another business, an acquisition loan may be a good option. Acquisition loans can be used to acquire, refinance, or purchase a business or franchise. There are several eligibility factors, which can include the value of the business, experience of the owner, and the past performance of the business.

12. Merchant Cash Advance – $0–$100,000

This type of financing allows a business to borrow against future earnings. Requirements for this type of financing are extremely lenient due to the nature and terms of the loan. Cash advances purely borrow against credit card swipes from your business. While this type of financing is innovative, unique and easy to qualify for, it must be used in the right situations.

How do you decide which type of financing is best for you?

Many business owners think of only two ways to get business financing today: get an angel investor or go to the local bank and apply for a loan. That thinking is partly why so many small businesses are not getting the capital they need. Today, there are many ways to pursue financing. But to secure the right financing, each individual and each individual business needs to pursue the types of financing that will best fit their own unique situation.

Adapted from the white paper: “12 Best Ways to Get Business Financing in 2012” by Lendio, which you can download for free here. Lendio works directly with lending partners to connect business owners to the best lender for them. For more information and to use their free online service, click here.

Comments Off on How to be Optimistic, Even if Times are Tough

How to be Optimistic, Even if Times are Tough


There are a variety of reasons why you should want to be optimistic. This positive state of mind has been verified as a successful strategy to prevent mental and physical illness, and people who practice optimism regularly do better at work, school and sports, are less depressed and have better personal relationships.

What’s not to like?

Well, if given the option most of us would gladly choose to stay positive all the time. But then this pesky thing called reality keeps getting in the way. The economy is slumping. Jobs are hard to come by and those of us who have one are waiting on-edge for the next round of lay-offs. Some of us are having trouble making basic ends meet, and others are already unable to and are drowning in debt.

To put it lightly, many of us have a lot to complain about. But then again, many of us have a lot to be thankful for too, no? This is the simple difference between someone who is optimistic and someone who is pessimistic; it’s all about mindset.

“Of course, optimists get stressed,” says David Snowdon, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky in a Prevention article. “But they automatically turn the response off much more quickly and return to a positive mental and physical state.”

The good news is that you, too, can learn how to turn on that “happy” switch, even when times are tough — and here’s how.

    1. Be grateful for what you have. Your mother may have told you this when you were young, and it’s still a basic rule to live by. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. The simple change in attitude can do wonders for your mental state, and expressing gratitude regularly has been linked to better health, well-being and progress toward your goals. A simple way to get started is to jot down 10 things you love about your life every day.
    2. Do something kind for someone. Studies show that doing five good deeds a day can make you happier, and volunteering has been linked to a heightened sense of well-being. If you need some motivation, watch someone else do something kind. Just witnessing the act has been found to boost your mood and make you more likely to do nice things as well.
    3. Communicate positively. When you speak or write, always phrase things in a positive way. For example, instead of saying to your spouse, “You’d better not be late for dinner,” try, “I’m really looking forward to having dinner with you at 7:00.”
    4. Turn adversity into opportunity. A failure or a hard time is only a bad thing if you let it be. Realize that successful people fail, and have likely failed many times to get where they are. So when you do fail, embrace it. Turn the failure into a positive by figuring out what went wrong, then applying what you learned to your next endeavor.
    5. Read all eight techniques in the full article…

Embrace and Support Your Positive Self with the #1 Most Recommended Relax

There’s no need to worry; do the so-what if’s.

  • See the possibilities of all sides
  • Do a series of “what if’s” “So What” (there is truly nothing worse than manifesting fears, creating stress)
  • Realize that even extremes may not be pleasant, yet not as bad as fears
  • Strength comes from overcoming fears by focusing on the positive

You instinctively know how to relax instantly:

  • Let go: Eliminate Stress Immediately
  • Calm Your Mind
  • Soothe Your Emotions
  • Create a State of Deep Relaxation in Your Body (nose to your toes)
  • Meditate: Gain complete relaxation in a natural, effortless way

Select soothing background Music to help you relax each day.

(© 2012 Health Realizations, Inc.)


Comments Off on SOPA: An FAQ About a New, Serious Threat to Your Internet Freedom

SOPA: An FAQ About a New, Serious Threat to Your Internet Freedom

From an article on by Declan McCullagh

Here we go again. It’s been over a decade since Internet freedom and privacy advocates had to act to prevent the Net from being pre-emptively censored of content that would be considered unacceptable for those under a given age. Now we are facing an even more insidious threat brought forward by our Congress that would put us right in line with countries like China and Iran when it comes to free speech online. I urge you to read and act to help prevent the proposed bill from becoming law. Read on! –BG

When Rep. Lamar Smith announced the Stop Online Piracy Act in late October, he knew it was going to be controversial.


But the Texas Republican probably never anticipated the broad and fierce outcry from Internet users that SOPA provoked over the last few months. It was a show of public opposition to Internet-related legislation not seen since the 2003 political wrangling over implanting copy-protection technology in PCs, or perhaps even the blue ribbons appearing on Web sites in the mid-1990s in response to the Communications Decency Act.

As CNET reported in December, Smith, a self-described former ranch manager whose congressional district encompasses the cropland and grazing land stretching between Austin and San Antonio, Texas, has become Hollywood’s favorite Republican. The TV, movie, and music industries are the top donors to his 2012 campaign committee, and he’s been feted by music and movie industry lobbyists at dinners and concerts.

To learn how SOPA, and its Senate cousin known as the Protect IP Act, would affect you, keep reading. CNET has compiled a list of frequently asked questions on the topic:

Q: What’s the justification for SOPA and Protect IP?
Two words: rogue sites.

That’s Hollywood’s term for Web sites that happen to be located in a nation more hospitable to copyright infringement than the United States is (in fact, the U.S. is probably the least hospitable jurisdiction in the world for such an endeavor). Because the target is offshore, a lawsuit against the owners in a U.S. court would be futile.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, put it this way: “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.” The MPAA has a section of its Web site devoted to rogue Web sites. Jim Hood, the Democratic attorney general of Mississippi, and co-chair of a National Association of Attorneys General committee on the topic, recently likened rogue Web sites to child porn.

Who’s opposed to SOPA?
Much of the Internet industry and a large percentage of Internet users. Here’s the most current list (PDF) of opponents.

On November 15, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” Yahoo has reportedly quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the organization’s enthusiastic support for SOPA.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution last week stressing “the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said in a message on Twitter last week that we “need to find a better solution than #SOPA.”

A letter signed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, both California Democrats, and
Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate from Texas, predicts that SOPA will invite “an explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation.” Law professors have also raised concerns. And yes, there is a protest song.

How would SOPA work?
It allows the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty.

More specifically, section 102 of SOPA says that, after being served with a removal order:

A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order…Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

How is SOPA different from the earlier Senate bill called the Protect IP Act?
Protect IP targeted only domain name system providers, financial companies, and ad networks–not companies that provide Internet connectivity.

Because SOPA is broader, even some companies who liked, or at least weren’t vocally opposed to, the Senate bill aren’t exactly delighted with the House version.

“Verizon continues to look at SOPA, and while it’s fair to say that we have concerns about the legislation, we are working with congressional staff to address those concerns,” a representative told us.

Tim McKone, AT&T’s executive vice president of federal relations, said that “we have been supportive of the general framework” of the Senate bill. But when it comes to SOPA, all AT&T would say is that it is “working constructively with Chairman Smith and others toward a similar end in the House.”

What are the security-related implications of SOPA?
One big one is how it interacts with the domain name system and a set of security improvements to it known as DNSSEC.

The idea of DNSSEC is to promote end-to-end encryption of domain names, meaning there’s no break in the chain between, say, and its customer. Requiring Internet providers to redirect allegedly piratical domain names to, say, the FBI’s servers isn’t compatible with DNSSEC.

Rep. Dan Lungren, who heads the Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity, has said that an “unintended consequence” of SOPA would be to “undercut” the effort his panel has been making to promote DNSSEC.

The Sandia National Laboratories, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, has also raised concerns about SOPA, saying it is “unlikely to be effective” and will “negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality.” And Stewart Baker, the former policy chief at the Department of Homeland Security who’s now in private practice, warned in an op-ed that SOPA “runs directly counter” to the House’s own cybersecurity efforts.

An analysis (PDF) of Protect IP prepared by five Internet researchers this spring lists potential security problems. Among them: it’s “incompatible” with DNSSEC, innocent Web sites will be swept in as “collateral damage,” and the blacklist can be bypassed by using the numeric Internet address of a Web site. The address for, for instance, is currently

What will SOPA require Internet providers to do?
A little-noticed portion of the proposed law, which CNET highlighted in an article, goes further than Protect IP and could require Internet providers to monitor customers’ traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.

“It would cover IP blocking,” says Markham Erickson, head of NetCoalition, whose members include, Google, eBay, and Yahoo. “I think it contemplates deep packet inspection” as well, he said.

The exact requirements will depend on what the removal order says. The Recording Industry Association of America says that SOPA could be used to force Internet providers to block by “Internet Protocol address” and deny “access to only the illegal part of the site.” It would come as no surprise if copyright holders suggested wording to the Justice Department, which would in turn seek a judge’s signature on the removal order.

Deep packet inspection, meaning forcing an Internet provider to intercept and analyze customers’ Web traffic, is the only way to block access to specific URLs.

Smith’s revised version (PDF) may limit the blocking requirement to DNS blocking. Its “safe harbor” language indicates that not resolving “the domain name of the foreign infringing site” may be sufficient, but some ambiguity remains.

Are there free speech implications to SOPA?
SOPA’s opponents say so–a New York Times op-ed called it the “Great Firewall of America–and the language of the bill itself is quite broad. Section 103 says that, to be blacklisted, a Web site must be “directed” at the U.S. and also that the owner “has promoted” acts that can infringe copyright.

Here’s how Section 101 of the original version of SOPA defines what a U.S.-directed Web site is:

(A) the Internet site is used to provide goods or services to users located in the United States;
(B) there is evidence that the Internet site or portion thereof is intended to offer or provide such goods and services (or) access to such goods and services (or) delivery of such goods and services to users located in the United States;
(C) the Internet site or portion thereof does not contain reasonable measures to prevent such goods and services from being obtained in or delivered to the United States; and
(D) any prices for goods and services are indicated or billed in the currency of the United States.

Some critics have charged that such language could blacklist the next YouTube, Wikipedia, or WikiLeaks. Especially in the case of WikiLeaks, which has posted internal documents not only from governments but also copyrighted documents from U.S. companies and has threatened to post more, it’s hard to see how it would not qualify for blacklisting.

Laurence Tribe, a high-profile Harvard law professor and author of a treatise titled American Constitutional Law, has argued that SOPA is unconstitutional because, if enacted, “an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement.”

What has the response to this language been?
Mozilla, which makes the Firefox Web browser, responded by creating a page saying: “Protect the Internet: Help us stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation.” It warns that “your favorite Web sites both inside and outside the US could be blocked based on an infringement claim.”

Web sites including Wikimedia (as in, Wikipedia) charged that SOPA is an “Internet blacklist bill” that “would allow corporations, organizations, or the government to order an Internet service provider to block an entire Web site simply due to an allegation that the site posted infringing content.” Tumblr “censored” its users’ content streams, and reported that its users averaged 3.6 calls per second to Congress through the company’s Web site–nearly 90,000 total.

With a bit of HTML from, a Web site supported by the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Knowledge, hundreds of Web sites “censored” themselves to protest SOPA. Even Lofgren, from Silicon Valley, has joined the fight-censorship protest.

For their part, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been highlighting an analysis it commissioned from First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, a former MPAA attorney, who concluded SOPA is perfectly constitutional. Here’s another pro-SOPA rebuttal.

Who supports SOPA?
The three organizations that have probably been the most vocal are the MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A Politico chart shows that Hollywood has outspent Silicon Valley by about tenfold on lobbyists in the last two years. Here’s a CNET article on why the Chamber is so pro-SOPA.

Supporters publicized letters from the National Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Fire Fighters lending their weight to the Web-blocking idea. Here are more statements from supporters at the time of SOPA’s introduction. And the AFL-CIO sent a representative to testify in support of SOPA at last week’s House hearing.

Over 400 businesses and organizations have sent a letter supporting SOPA.

And in the U.S. Congress?
Support for Protect IP is remarkably broad, and for SOPA a little less so. An analysis by the RIAA says that of some 1,900 bills that have been introduced in the Senate, only 18 other bills enjoy the same number of bipartisan cosponsors as Protect IP does.

That puts it in the top 1 percent of most-popular bills, at least for this measurement of congressional enthusiasm. Of Protect IP’s sponsors in the Senate, over 60 percent are Democrats.

Here’s the list of Senate sponsors of Protect IP–the total is 40 senators. SOPA has only 24 cosponsors, but it hasn’t been around as long. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has introduced the so-called OPEN Act that would cut off the flow of funds to alleged pirate Web sites without requiring them to be blocked.

Would SOPA block Tor?
Perhaps. In an echo of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anticircumvention section, SOPA targets anyone who “knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed by such entity…for the circumvention or bypassing” of a Justice Department-erected blockade.

Legal scholars contacted by CNET said Tor could qualify as a “circumvention” tool, which would allow it to be targeted.

What happens next?
In terms of Protect IP, the Senate Judiciary committee has approved it and it’s waiting for a floor vote that has been scheduled for January 24. One hurdle: Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has placed a hold on the bill.

During a two-day debate in the House Judiciary committee in mid-December, it became clear that SOPA supporters have a commanding majority on the committee. They’re expected to approve it when Congress returns in 2012.

Where it goes from there is an open question that depends on where the House Republican leadership stands. Because the House’s floor schedule is under the control of the majority party, the decision will largely lie in the hands of House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants.

Another possibility is that there could be further House hearings on the security-related implications of SOPA, a move that would delay a final vote. An aide to House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith previously told CNET that there’s no indication yet as to any further hearings, but after the committee debate in December, don’t be surprised if it happens.

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET, which is part of CBS Corporation. Previously he was a senior correspondent for CBS News’ Web site. He became the chief political correspondent for CNET News in 2002 and lives in the San Francisco area after spending over a decade in Washington, DC.