To no surprise authorities have passed yet another “cyber defense” law. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was passed by U.S. Congress, despite a public and corporate outcry. According to The Guardian the use of CISPA would allegedly “encourage companies and the federal government to share information with each other collected on the Internet, preventing potential electronic attacks from cyber criminals (hackers), foreign governments and terrorists”. However, this decision is not mutually accepted. High profile Internet companies including Reddit, Craigslist, Mozilla, and even WordPress perceive CISPA as controversial, with fears that it will provide the government with the ability to spy on Internet users.
One might may forgot that in 2012 a similar law known as Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) was proposed by congress to curb access to foreign websites that are believed to be involved in the distribution and manufacturing of copyrighted material as a direct result of increasing piracy on the web. However, SOPA was eventually halted after an “unprecedented amount of online protests”.
Forward to today, the public domain has not been so lucky with CISPA. There has been an enormous amount of Internet activism and support with an online petition that contains more than 300,000 signatures from concerned users.
This online petition is a sign of hope and progress towards raising awareness that CISPA will not be passively accepted by organizations and users. There are dedicated organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has raised some of its concerns surrounding the new law. This includes issues such as “the purpose and use of sensitive personal information and providing overly broad legal immunity to companies who share users’ private information with the government.”
The EFF is working with the Internet Defense League, a coalition dedicated to fighting for internet freedom in order to directly combat CISPA. This is done through activist initiatives such as creating interactive banner advertisement placed on websites that support EFF and The Internet Defense League. The banner ad encourages voters to send the following message to their members of Congress: “CISPA is back. This bill sacrifices privacy without improving security. We deserve both.” There is even a dedicated Twitter account (@CISPApetition) in order to persuade the government to reconsider CISPA and the implications it will have on Internet users and organizations privacy. Upon further exploration I discovered that The Internet Defense League is a campaign organized by a greater collective effort under the Fight for the Future, an organization that work towards “protecting and expanding the Internet’s transformative power through creating civic campaigns that are meant to engage millions of people.” Just by increasing awareness of the implications of CISPA they are raising awareness instead of simply being passive and letting the government slowly turn society into a “policed state”.
It is organizations like EFF, The Internet Defense League and Fight for the Future that are helping defend the public domain of the Internet, even if the results are not instantaneous. Internet users need to join in and continue the conversation about CISPA and the freedom of the Internet. Users need to refrain from believing that companies are already selling user information so why should we do anything about it. Soon you won’t be able to do anything without persecution and scrutiny from a government that is meant to protect you. I understand there is a growing need to protect citizens, but how far will it go. Where is the ability to exercise free speech? The invasion of piracy into the lives of the average citizen needs to cease. My hope is that by writing this blog post readers will support one of these organizations even if they think that one signature or email won’t make a difference. We need to exercise a greater collective effort and take back the control that CISPA has so easily been granted.
To end off, I would just like to thank everyone who has been reading my blog up until this point. This will be my last post until the conclusion of the semester (April 8, 2013) as part of this blog is being marked for an assignment in my seminar CS400ha– Citizen Media and the Public Sphere. I really appreciate any feedback or comments I have received from readers and hope that you have enjoyed reading some of the content I have posted. I look forward to writing my next post and hope readers will continue to post their comments and provide feedback.