They know you’re reading this. Dan Gillmore writes at the Guardian:
Two years ago, major websites like Google, Reddit and Wikipedia went dark for a day. They were protesting the then-pending “Stop Online Piracy Act,” federal legislation that would have done enormous damage to the open internet by creating system of censorship and deterring digital-media innovators. The 18 January 2012 blackout created an outpouring of opposition from average Americans who suddenly realized what was at stake, and Congress backed off a bill that almost certainly would have passed otherwise.
There won’t be a website blackout next Tuesday, 11 February, but there will be another virtual call to arms. In the US the primary goal this time is to help reverse America’s retreat from liberty by telling lawmakers we can’t abide a surveillance state – and by insisting they vote for a measure, called the USA Freedom Act, that would begin to restore the civil liberties we’ve lost in recent times. (For people outside the US the goal will be similar, to push authorities toward policies favoring liberty and privacy.)
Next week’s protest organizers are calling it “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance“. They’ve lined up an array of backers of various political persuasions. You don’t often see the American Civil Liberties Union on the same side of an issue as the very conservative FreedomWorks, but they are this time.
The cynics will say, “Why bother?” They’ll note that the NSA and other security agencies in the US and abroad, urged on by a series of American presidents and other leaders, have ignored and broken laws with impunity. They’ll point out politicians’ epic hypocrisy; for example, members of Congress have supported the shredding of the Bill of Rights when presidents of their own party were in power, only protesting when the other party captured the White House. And they’ll assure us, even as public opinion turns against dragnet surveillance, that the next terrorist attack will swing the public mood back to the “keep me safe no matter what it takes” camp.
They’ll have a point. The relentlessness of the surveillance forces and their enablers in the technology industry, and the fecklessness of the politicians who are supposed to honor their oaths of office, make it hard to be optimistic. But realism doesn’t mean we should to give up.
The organizers of Fight Back are realistic. David Segal, a main organizer, is a former Rhode Island state representative and head of Demand Progress, an advocacy group founded by the late activist Aaron Swartz, who in turn was a key organizer of the fight against SOPA and, a year later, took his own life after being hounded by federal prosecutors on outrageously trumped-up charges. No one can doubt that Swartz would have been on the front lines of a day when we fight back, and it is dedicated in part to his memory.
Read more here.