Week of protests against CISPA begins
April 16, 2012
A coalition of advocacy groups has begun a week of intensive protests against the latest attack on the free and open internet, The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The draconian legislation would force companies to ignore existing privacy laws and share information with the federal government.
At the forefront of the coalition’s protest efforts is a Twitter takeover, whereby users are being asked to use the hashtags #CongressTMI and #CISPA in an attempt to create the same level of publicity that was generated during the height of the protests against The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) earlier this year.
The organizations are pushing ahead with a mass distribution of letters and articles to raise awareness of the implications of CISPA, which is sponsored by Michigan Republican Mike Rogers.
The groups do not plan on conducting any “blackouts”, shutting down their websites as happened during the SOPA protests. Instead they will focus on informational campaigns aiming to teach people about all the cybersecurity bills currently in Congress.
The revelation that Facebook is supporting the legislation has also raised awareness of the issue ahead of the protests.
“Freedom of expression and the protection of online privacy are increasingly under threat in democratic countries, where a series of bills and draft laws is sacrificing them in the interests of national security or copyright,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.
“A blanket monitoring system is never an appropriate solution. Reporters Without Borders opposes CISPA and ask Congress to reject this legislation.” the statement says.
Other groups taking part in the internet-wide protests include Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, Avaaz, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Center for Democracy and Technology, The Constitution Project, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, OpenMedia.ca, Open the Government, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Reverse Robo Call, Sunlight Foundation, Techdirt, and TechFreedom.
“The Rogers bill gives companies a free pass to monitor and collect communications and share that data with the government and other companies, so long as they do so for ‘cybersecurity purposes,’” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has noted. “Just invoking ‘cybersecurity threats’ is enough to grant companies immunity from nearly all civil and criminal liability, effectively creating an exemption from all existing law.”
Both the EFF and the Center for Democracy have noted that CISPA effectively legislates for monitoring and collecting online communications without the knowledge of the parties concerned and funneling them directly to the National Security Agency or the DOD’s Cybercommand.
Kendall Burman of the Center for Democracy and Technology spoke about CISPA in a recent interview with RT:
“We have a number of concerns with something like this bill that creates sort of a vast hole in the privacy law to allow government to receive these kinds of information.”
Burman added that the bill, as it stands, allows the U.S. government to involve itself in any online correspondence if it believes there is reason to suspect “cyber crime”, which it does not even clearly define.
Josh Levy, the Internet campaign director of the organization Free Press has noted that the bill “would have a chilling effect on free speech — creating an environment in which we refrain from posting on Facebook, conducting Web searches, sending emails, writing blog posts or communicating online for fear that the National Security Agency — the same agency that’s conducted online “warrantless wiretapping” for years — could come knocking.”
As we reported recently, the defeat of SOPA in January has not stalled the attempted crackdown on the open internet. If anything, government and corporate efforts to control the net have substantially accelerated.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.