Nearly a decade after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless spying program came to light, the issue of mass government surveillance has again sparked a global outcry with the disclosures of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Leaks of National Security Agency files have exposed a mammoth spying apparatus that stretches across the planet, from phone records to text messages to social media and email, from the internal communications of climate summits to those of foreign missions and even individual heads of state. Today privacy advocates are holding one of their biggest online actions so far with “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance.”
Thousands of websites will speak in one voice, displaying a banner encouraging visitors to fight back by posting memes and changing their social media avatars to reflect their demands, as well as contacting their members of Congress to push through surveillance reform legislation. The action is inspired in part by the late Internet open-access activist Aaron Swartz, who helped set a precedent in January 2012 when more than 8,000 websites went dark for 12 hours in protest of a pair of controversial bills that were being debated in Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The bills died in committee in the wake of protests. We discuss today’s global action with Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.