The day internet fights back: anti-NSA protest needs you
The massive campaign, dubbed “
The action marks two years since a similar anti-surveillance web protest, in which about 8,000 webpages went on lockdown to show what might happen if the government was given a free hand to rule the internet, and also to commemorate the death of Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old online freedom activist who committed suicide after the US administration threatened to jail him for 35 years for downloading unclassified data.
Today the 5,700 socially-aware websites, including Reddit, Tumblr and Mozilla, will urge Americans to contact the Congress and tell it to shoot down the SOPA and PIPA acts. Those living outside the US will be encouraged to endorse an anti-surveillance petition, which has already been signed by more than 26,000 people.
“In January 2012, we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history,” reads a letter on TheDayWeFightBack site. “Today we face another critical threat, one that again undermines the Internet and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance.”
The page cites the reasons why the National Security Agency should be given a slap on the wrist, such as its campaigns to harvest hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world.
Worldwide protests against NSA led mass surveillance are planned for November 11, 2014 in a protest billed by organizers as “The Day We Fight Back”. Although the protest actions are largely US based and even the countdown clock is timed to US Pacific Time, the on-line activities and protests will affect internet users worldwide as many of the world’s top sites are joining in.
The planned activities on the cyber front are being led by the Internet Defense League, a group of which led the Internet blackout that effectively killed the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act, attempts by the US Government to bring the Internet under complete censorship and control. Those protests were successful in permanently shelving SOPA and PIPA and now the hope of the organizers is that tomorrow’s actions will reign in the NSA, and by default its spying network FVEY, and shelve a new bill sponsored by US Senator Dianne Feinstein called the FISA Improvements Act, as well as garner support for what is called the USA Freedom Act and finally enact protections for non-Americans.
In a statement released by the Internet Defense League website the organizers say the new protests are planned in memory of Mr. Aaron Swartz, the creator of RSS technology, one of the founders of Reddit and an Internet activist who was persecuted for sharing taxpayer funded research material from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) JSTOR (Journal Storage) system.
Although the research material and academic journals downloaded by Mr. Swartz were not secret in nature and publically funded, over-zealous prosecutors sought to force Mr. Swartz to pay a $1 million fine and serve 35 years in prison. Mr. Swartz, his lawyers and supporters fought the US Government’s case to no avail and after his second plea bargain offer was denied by prosecutors who sought to make him pay the maximum penalty, Mr. Swartz was found dead in his New York apartment having been persecuted into apparently committing suicide.
Aaron Swartz was instrumental in organizing the anti-SOPA/PIPA protests, which many believe was the real reason the US Government persecuted him on the trumped up charges for downloading academic journals. The US was desperate to prosecute high-profile Hacktivists and in the end, as with many of their heavy handed persecutions, they turned him into a legend and a martyr for the cause of internet freedom and the right of the people to benefit from academic work that they in fact pay for but are not allowed to openly see or use.
The participants of the Day We Fight Back protests so far include such respected organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Reddit, Mozilla and Amnesty International but it is yet to be seen if giants like Google and Wikipedia will be taking part, as of publication it is still not clear.
Two years ago the internet blackout against SOPA/PIPA included the participation of Wikipedia and Google, whose support was instrumental in bringing an end to proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation. That protest, according to SOPA Strike dot com also included the blacking out of sites such as Reddit, Wordpress, Tumblr, Drudge Report, Wired and over 115,000 other sites. The unprecedented resistance to SOPA/PIPA also gathered 10 million signatures on a petition, over 8 million phone calls to legislators, more than 4 million e-mails sent and caused over 1 billion users to be blocked from websites.
The organizers of the February 11th protests say there will not be an internet blackout but that banners will be spread all over the internet and on prominent sites calling for people in the US to call or e-mail the US Congress in protest of the FISA Improvements Act and in support of the USA Freedom Act. Internationally the organizers are asking for supporters of internet freedom to urge their proper authorities to institute privacy protections for Internet users.
In the statement released on the day we fight back dot org, organizers say: “Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action. Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.”
So far there are no calls for international targeting of NSA partners by the organizers and there is no mention of protesting the intelligence organizations which make up the FVEY signals intelligence alliance which are vital for the NSA’s global reach. Realistically for the world’s Internet users protests should also include NSA partners and the signals intelligence organizations of the NSA’s FVEY alliance as well. These include Australia’s Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
On a global level protesting the NSA and instituting or opposing US legislation means little or nothing when the NSA’s foreign subordinates are pulling most of the weight for the NSA on the international arena. However this may also point to the NSA’s subordination of its FVEY partners. Tellingly such intrusive surveillance as is being carried by FVEY on its own citizens is not being protested in other countries such as Russia, where the internet remains largely as free as it was at the time of its inception.
Voice of Russia, Time Swampland