The internet activists that came out to defeat the SOPA and PIPA censorship bills two years ago are once again mobilizing to protect our digital freedoms--this time from the state's mass surveillance apparatus.
Members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress and other digital rights activists are calling for a "day of action" on Feb. 11 when they hope to rouse the internet community into collectively speaking out against the NSA and the government's other intrusive surveillance tactics.
Since the scope and breadth of the nation's surveillance program was revealed by documents leaked by former security contractor Edward Snowden last summer, other reports about the NSA's surveillance methods have followed, including one that alleges the agency placed spyware on consumer electronics made by Microsoft, Cisco and other major brands.
President Obama has said he is considering changes to the program, including more privacy protections for more citizens and reforms to how the agency collects and keeps phone data. Those changes are expected to be announced in a press conference on Friday, just over three weeks before the digital rights groups' planned collective action.
"We haven't yet seen the Internet rise in a coordinated action from the threat of surveillance, and that's exactly what we're hoping to trigger," organizer, activist and entrepreneur Sina Khanifar says. "Without action, we've seen very little movement in Congress: the most promising bill yet, the USA Freedom Act, was introduced over a month ago and isn't moving in a meaningful way."
Even with the President's modest proposal, real reform will almost certainly take an act of Congress. Just last month a federal judge in New York rejected a challenge to the phone data collection program brought by the ACLU, saying that there was no evidence that the information had been misused
"We need to send a message to our legislators that we won't let the Internet be turned into a tool for mass surveillance. We need to push them to have the courage to support comprehensive reform, Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow wrote in an open letter to Hacker News. "We'd like to ask you to step up once again in defense of a free, open and secure Internet."
In a Reddit IAmA, Doctorow, Brian Knappenberger and Peter Ekersley of EFF and David Segal of Demand Progress explained that in addition to the serious cause, the protest was being organized in honor of Aaron Swartz, a Reddit alumni and activist who founded Watchdog.net.
"By planning a day of action on February 11th, we hope to rally both technology companies and everyday users to speak out and tell Congress that they expect action," Khanifar added.