If you’re already convinced that the new Internet censorship bill is totally nuts, then:

* If you’re an American citizen, write to your senator.

* Whether or not you’re an American citizen, sign this petition. It only takes a second, and when you’re done there are also handy instructions on how to call your senator.

Haven’t heard about the bill? Read on ….

YouTube.com, the video-sharing website, receives 2 billion views per day. Users upload 24 hours of video per minute. My 65-year-old mom is constantly sending me YouTube links. And YouTube wouldn’t exist if a censorship bill known as COICA, currently in committee, had passed five years ago.

COICA, or the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (S. 3804), is an incredibly broad piece of work that was introduced last week by Senator Patrick Leahy due to the demands of the entertainment industries. It’s intended to protect intellectual property, but it’s awfully vague. This bill could end up affecting not just creative sites like YouTube, but edgy political blogs or storage sites that are used by everyday people to send photos to their grandparents and back up their files. In fact, this bill is so vague that if it gets its foot in the door, it could ultimately be used to censor nearly anything. Sex bloggers — like me, for example — should be worried, and so should everyone else.

What kind of collateral damage will we accept in the campaign to stop copyright infringement?

Another major problem with COICA is that it sends a pro-censorship message out from the USA to the rest of the world. Americans are justly proud of our country’s emphasis on free speech. We criticize governments like China, which restrict their citizens’ access to the Internet. But with this bill, the United States risks telling countries throughout the world: “Unilateral censorship of websites that the government doesn’t like is okay — and this is how you do it.”

Finally, COICA won’t work. I’ve spent much of the last few days hanging out with engineers and hackers who have already thought their way around the bill’s potential Internet damage. So not only is it a crazy censorship bill, but it actually won’t do what it’s purportedly supposed to do.

Please take a moment to do one or all of the following:

* Get the word out! Cross-post this post, or link people you know to it. Link people to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

* If you’re an American citizen, write to your senator.

* Sign this petition. It only takes a second, and when you’re done there are also handy instructions on how to call your senator.

Free speech, folks. It’s kind of one of the most important things going, you know?

(Thanks for some quotations and lots of inspiration go out to some of the amazing people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, especially this blog post.)