Marking the US Fourth of July holiday, a major line-up of websites and advocacy groups has organised a series of protests against the massive spying programme of the National Security Agency.
The groups, including Reddit, and Mozilla , say the effort is the biggest online protest since last year’s Internet blackout against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), reports SiliconValley.com. The massive protest comes after recent revelations of details about NSA spying on phone calls and online communications.
Part of the effort is being called Restore the Fourth. This refers to the The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution , which is supposed to guard against unreasonable searches and seizure, and calls for warrants to be issued only when there is probable cause.
The NSA’s Prism program involves sweeping and in many cases warrantless surveillance, according to reports by the Guardian and the Washington Post. The government has claimed that a special court oversees the issuing of warrants - but this court operates mostly in secret.
The protests also will take place offline across the United States; the Restore the Fourth website has a map.
Last year, a mass protest succeeded in lawmakers shelving SOPA and a similar copyright-related measure called PIPA (Protect IP Act). That effort included an Internet blackout day backed by big Internet players such as Google and Wikipedia — and inspired subsequent big online activism efforts.
The new effort is being organised by the Internet Defense League — the same group behind the SOPA protest — and the websites participating include WordPress and 4chan, plus groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press.
“At its core, we see this kind of activity [as] undermining the trust and fabric of what an open Internet can and should be,” said Harvey Anderson, senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Mozilla, according to the Hill’s Hillicon Valley blog.
This time around, said SiliconValley.com, Google isn’t participating in the protests — although it is one of the companies whose user data is being scooped up by the NSA.
Google and other tech companies have said they give up data only when ordered to do so; they have implored the government to let them disclose more information about NSA requests. Time’s Sam Gustin
points out that unlike the tech companies, the big U.S. phone companies that also provide user information under the Prism program have not issued public comments about the reports.