7 Kickass Companies That Are Taking a Stand Against the NSA
Today, more than 5,700 websites — including Reddit and Tumblr — are protesting National Security Agency surveillance, calling it the Day We Fight Back. Websites are placing banners on their homepages, urging visitors to call and email members of Congress and ask them to vote against proposed NSA "reforms" that the American Civil Liberties Union believes are "bad for privacy" and "a dream come true" for the NSA.
The target of this movement is the FISA Improvements Act. Yet another bill with a name worthy of George Orwell, it would legalize and extend NSA mass surveillance programs, including the bulk phone records surveillance program confirmed by Edward Snowden last summer. It would also make it easier for unspecified "law enforcement agencies" to have access to foreign intelligence databases, even for Americans, without a warrant.
Two years ago, 8,000 websites went black in a similar act of protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) — bills that would have given the government free reign to remove websites that were found to violate copyrights. Fueled by the efforts of the late Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz, the movement succeeded — SOPA and PIPA never made it out of committee.
As they did in 2012, Internet freedom activists hope to achieve a similar victory with the Day We Fight Back. Here are some of the kickass companies that are taking a stand against the NSA:
Imgur is more than an image hosting service — it's fueled by a dedicated community through sharing, commenting and voting. Created by Reddit user Alan Schaaf in 2009 to serve as an image host that can handle massive traffic volumes, it sometimes outranks Reddit in traffic.
This eclectic online community stands to be a major player in this protest. "In addition to individual privacy issues, these surveillance programs are damaging for online businesses like Reddit. These programs undermine the basic freedom, innovation and economic opportunity that the Internet enables," reads a post on the Reddit blog.
On Tuesday, there's an AMA with the organizers behind the day of action.
"What will happen without reform? The Internet industry in the United States will feel perhaps the most harm, with potentially hundreds of billions of dollars lost. Over time, expansive surveillance will produce immeasurable harm to the future of innovation and adoption, not just for the U.S., but for the entire world," reads a post on the Mozilla blog — the group behind the popular Firefox browser.
4. American Civil Liberties Union
As of Feb. 7, 2014, Tumblr hosts more than 170 million blogs. The company has its own initiative to provide the Tumblr community with transparency. It makes public government requests for user information in an annual law enforcement transparency report.
6. Electronic Frontier Foundation
This prominent voice in Internet freedom defends the public interest in every digital rights battle from free speech, privacy, innovation and consumer rights. Its past legal victories include setting one of the first precedents protecting computer communications from unwarranted government invasion, fighting the government's attempts to track the location of a mobile phone user without sufficient evidence and extending free speech protections online, successfully challenging the constitutionality of Internet censorship laws.
They're asking people around the world to participate in the Day We Fight Back in a number of ways, including signing the 13 Principles, which gives lawmakers and judges a list of fixes they could apply to the "lawless Internet spooks," spelling out why mass surveillance is a violation of human rights.
7. Human Rights Watch
"Today, Internet users all around the world are getting the opportunity to send a signal rejecting mass surveillance. As part of the Day We Fight Back campaign, Human Rights Watch has joined Internet users, civil society groups, websites and companies all around the world to oppose arbitrary and indiscriminate monitoring of our private lives," wrote Cynthia Wong of HRW.