Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Day We Fight Back: can an internet protest stop the NSA?*

* Probably not, but it might get a bill passed

The Day We Fight Back 
On January 18th, 2012, the world’s free encyclopedia went dark. "Imagine a world without free knowledge," said a black splash page, warning users of a bill that could "fatally damage the free and open internet" and urging them to contact Congress. The bill was SOPA, a widely reviled piece of anti-piracy legislation, and Wikipedia wasn’t alone: Reddit, Google, and other huge sites either disabled access or hosted banners in protest. What happened next has become a touchstone for internet activists. Bill sponsor Lamar Smith (R-TX), who a few days earlier had implied that SOPA’s opponents must be profiting from piracy, tabled his proposal almost immediately. Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA, compared the public outcry to the Arab Spring.

It’s been over two years since the death of SOPA. But as attention has turned instead to NSA surveillance, the 2012 protests have provided assurance that online action can create real results. This is the idea behind The Day We Fight Back, an anti-surveillance web protest being held Tuesday, February 11th, in memory of hacktivist and anti-SOPA organizer Aaron Swartz. "In January 2012 we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history," says the site. "Today we face another critical threat." If anything, though, the reference doesn’t inspire confidence so much as it underscores just how much more complex — and difficult to confront — that new threat really is.

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