An Internet piracy bill that has stalled in Congress could help authorities shut down illegal online pharmacies, according to ABC News.
Work on the bill, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect I.P. Act (PIPA) in the Senate, has halted because of charges of censorship.
The bill could help prevent purchases of unprescribed painkillers ordered from foreign websites, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cannot regulate, the article notes. SOPA could help companies take independent action against websites that endanger public health, ABC News states.
U.S.-based payment companies such as MasterCard or American Express would be given a legal incentive to stop payments to illegal online pharmacies. Currently, private companies that stop service to these online pharmacies could be vulnerable to a breach of contract lawsuit, even if the pharmacies are illegal. SOPA would grant immunity to service providers that stop service if they believe that the customer is engaging in illegal activity. The bill would allow private businesses serving illegal websites to take action quickly, without the help of law enforcement.
It is difficult to close down a website that hosts illegal activity, unless it can be proven the website’s owner knows about the activity. The owners can often avoid prosecution if they are based outside of the United States.