11th February 2014 marked a major milestone for the tech industry. Over 6,000 websites, including those of Reddit, Mozilla and Tumblr, displayed a banner, encouraging visitors to fight mass surveillance.
Reddit, the social news provider, exposed the First Amendment of the US Constitution in bold on its website and a petition form alongside that targets internet users worldwide. But in the US, things have taken a more serious turn following Edward Snowden’s earth-shaking revelations on the NSA and now with the threatening spectre of the FISA Improvements Act. If the bill is voted, the National Security Agency (NSA) will have a legal status to collect private data on individuals in bulk.
In the wake of the debates surrounding privacy, 6,200 websites are inviting US citizens to get in touch with members of the Congress through the banners displayed, to share their disapproval of the FISA Improvements Acts proposed by Senator Diane Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Digital rights activists are quite confident as back in 2012, a huge coalition formed by tech tycoons successfully halted the adoption of both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) through an online campaign. However, the heavyweights, including Google and Microsoft, have not joined the current movement as yet.
“Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyse our every digital action,” the movement published in a statement on its website
The activities surrounding ‘The Day We Fight Back’, also honor the memory of open-internet activist and co-founder of Reddit, Aaron Swartz who took his own life a little over a year ago. In 2011, Swartz was arrested and charged of wire fraud for the download of 4.8 million academic articles from JSTOR by using MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) open campus network. After his death, supporters asked the government to update the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as Swartz committed suicide due to the heavy sentence, entailing many years of imprisonment, that he would have had to face. Swartz claimed that his downloading activity was not illegal: the articles being part of humanity’s collected knowledge, they had to be shared among scientists for the greater good.
Today, many agree that winning legal battles against NSA like organisations has become more critical than ever as it is the very basic of human rights that are at stake.