19 January 2014, 18:16

Fight for security and freedom of speech will go on - activist

Fight for security and freedom of speech will go on - activist

February 11 is going to be the day when thousands of human rights activists will come to the streets in a bid to fight the mass surveillance and government abuses. Rainey Reitman, the Activism Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told the Voice of Russia in an exclusive interview about the upcoming activists' action around the world.

Miss Reitman, could you please tell us a little bit more about the upcoming event on February, 11?

So, February, 11 is a day that we are calling – the day we fight back and you can find out more about it on the website – thedaywefightback.org. And it's a day when people all over the world are going to be engaged in activism to push back against government surveillance abuses. And this is specifically inspired by the surveillance abuses of the NSA and thanks to documents released by Edward Snowden we now have a very detailed picture. We don't know everything but we have enough to know that the NSA is sweeping up documents and information on people not suspected of any crimes. They are picking up the phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the US and they are collecting the detailed personal communications of people all over the world. And so this is really an affront to privacy and it is really undermining the trust that people have in digital technology. In particular major websites, over 2,000 websites are going to be engaged in an online protest with a display of a large graphic that showcases their opposition to this type of government surveillance. And then they are going to be pushing to see the end of NSA's surveillance abuses and everybody is going to be doing that on February,11. There is also going to be other actions, there are number of people planning protests on the streets, there are people planning creative actions of 2-26 And I think that there will be a number of other things as well. But the primary action is going to be this online protest.

Miss Reitman, I understand you are located on the Pacific Coast. Are you planning on coming here?

We had a protest in Washington DC in October. And I know there will be other protests and events in Washington DC. I am going to be Washington DC but it is not specific to this particular event. I just travel there a lot for work. So I'm there several times, probably about once a month at this point. So, yes. But that probably not what you were interested in hearing about.

On February,11 this protest, will it be held only in DC or there will be other cities across the country?

The primary protest is going to be an online protest. So it is major websites that are participating, websites like BoingBoing and even websites that are going to be showcasing their support for this action. So I do think there will be street protests but the primary thing isn't going to be a street action in Washington DC, it is going to be an online digital protest to show people that the Internet community, people that use technology, that run websites – these are the people that are most upset about this. We did this effectively 2 years ago, we got companies like Google and Wikipedia black out their websites to protest against a very bad bill and it actually effectively killed that bill. It wasn't able to move forward anymore. This can be a very effective tactic for change if enough organizations participate.

What is the Electronic Frontier Foundation doing specifically for this event?

Right now we are just trying to get the word out and let people know about the fact that there is an event on February,11 and we are urging people to let us know how they are planning to participate. We are also doing everything we can to educate people about NSA's abuses. There is so much misunderstanding about how the NSA is engaged in collecting information and about what should be done about it. There is also, I think a little bit of a sense of a despair, that things have gone so far that it would be impossible for them to be rammed in. So what we are trying to do is to talk about the common sense ways that we could restore basic civil liberties online and reigning the NSA so they don't continue to sweep up the communication of people all over the world and undermine Internet encryption. I think there is an education component as well as an outreach component so that is what we are doing at this point.

What about Aaron Swartz. This event is also going commemorate Aaron Swartz, right?

Yes, that is actually very right. So, Aaron Swartz was an amazing Internet activist who fought for a free and open Internet, he fought for access for information and he was heavily prosecuted by the US government under a vague outdated law that criminalizes access in the computer without authorization. It is a law suit that I think if it had gone to a court he may have won. But because the law is penalized so heavily he stayed in a lot of risk, he could have faced decades in prison for his action even though he would only be acting in the public good and he never wanted to hurt anyone and no one suffered as a result of his actions. So Aaron Swartz committed suicide. Last year 2013 in January. And so this January in memory of his incredible advocacy and to commemorate his real selfless devotion to help bring knowledge to the world. We decided to hold a day of action both in his honor and to continue the fight in his name going forward. That is where are having this day of action on February 11. We announced it on January, 11 which is the anniversary of Aaron's death. And we are holding it one month later on February 11- that will give people time to get ready for it so that we can continue to fight and to know that even though Aaron is gone, there are people still willing to carry the banner for Internet freedom and privacy in his name.

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