24-hour protest looks to weaken NSA surveillance

Kelsi Thorud Contributor
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Thousands of web companies and organizations including Tumblr, Reddit, and the Libertarian Party came together on Feb. 11 to protest against the National Security Agency and mass surveillance programs.

The campaign, called “The Day We Fight Back,” was created in honor of Aaron Swartz, an “activist and technologist” who died last year, and also to celebrate the anniversary of the defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act from January 2012, according to the press release.

“The Day We Fight Back” webpage encourages other websites to add banners to their sites that ask people to contact their local legislators by phone or email and pressure Congress to support the USA Freedom Act and oppose the FISA Improvements Act.

The USA Freedom Act looks to stop NSA surveillance misuses while the FISA Improvements Act strives to legalize bulk data collection of phone records.

“We felt the best way to connect with the political and technical Internet industries was to put it directly online,” said Rainey Reitman, activism director at Electronic Frontier Foundation, the main organizer of the protest. “We wanted to provide a way for the Internet community to speak out.”

This is not only a U.S. movement but also a world movement. In addition to the online banner campaign in the U.S., “The Day We Fight Back” also created an international petition to fight mass surveillance.

The protest is only one day long but many of the companies involved believe that it could make a strong and lasting impact.

“The Libertarian Party has been working with the coalition since last June to put a complete end to mass surveillance,” said Carla Howell, the political director of the Libertarian Party. “We are excited because this is one of the rare issues that we have been successful with in pushing back big government and it is having a big impact on the 2014 elections.”

The campaign’s goal is to flood legislator’s phones and emails to the point where their voicemails and inboxes are overflowing. They expect hundreds of thousands of calls and emails to be sent during the 24-hour period, according to Reitman.

“I think this is just one day but the USA Freedom Act has a lot of sponsors, there are a lot of people on the fence and it could make a big impact,” said Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit.