What are Reddit, Mozilla, other websites and advocacy groups doing for the Fourth of July holiday? They’ve organized a parade of protests against the NSA’s massive spying program.
The groups are calling the effort the biggest online protest since last year’s Internet blackout against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), and comes after recent revelations of details about National Security Agency spying on phone calls and online communications.
Part of the effort is being called Restore the Fourth. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to guard against unreasonable searches and seizure, and calls for warrants to be issued 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. While the government has claimed that a special court oversees the issuing of warrants, the court operates mostly in secret.
The protests also will take place offline across the United States; the Restore the Fourth website has a map. The effort was organized 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.
Last year, a mass protest succeeded in lawmakers shelving SOPA and a similar copyright-related measure called PIPA (Protect IP Act). As we wrote at the time, the effort included an Internet blackout day backed by big Internet players such as Google and Wikipedia — and inspired subsequent big online activism efforts.
This time around, though, Google isn’t participating in the protests — 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.
Image courtesy of Restore the Fourth