David Segal is the executive director of Demand Progress, the online activist organization credited with leading the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act and other related bills in 2012. January 10, 2014 was the day he announced plans to rally the internet community into combating the National Security Agency’s illegal activities—censorship and surveillance—and also to encourage people to contact their local lawmakers to enforce the passage of the USA Freedom Act. The protest begins on February 11th, 2014, and is aptly titledThe Day We Fight Back.
Open-internet activism is not a new concept (Does anyone remember Bear Share?), but there is a difference between, say, a local small-time pirate and people such as Aaron Swartz, late (RIP) activist for this open-internet culture. In part, Segal’s protest is dedicated to him as well. If you haven’t heard of Swartz (don’t worry, learn about him real quick now), let me bring you up to speed: Swartz, an ingenious programmer and Harvard research fellow, sought to download a large number of journals from the JSTOR online academic journal database in order to distribute them for public viewing. Swartz was arrested by MIT campus police and a US Secret Service Agent in January of 2011. He had undertaken his task on a computer he kept tucked away in a computer wiring closet in MIT, and had reportedly done so with the door unlocked and his actions viewable to curious onlookers. He committed suicide in early 2013, under the pressure of the subsequent trial and the knowledge that he would surely be found guilty.
But what does this have to do with the National Security Agency (NSA)? Aaron Swartz was an advocate for a culture that did not prohibit expressive freedoms, both socially and over the internet. David Segal is another such advocate. The NSA was created for surveillance and cryptographic tasks, and is almost a century-old organization; however, thanks to Edward Snowden’s recent whistle-blowing which brought to public attention the NSA’s hidden and entirely illegal mass surveillance setup, social activists have gathered under Segal’s guidance in order to lash against the NSA’s unlawful activities. Websites and organizations that have joined forces include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACLU, Reddit, Other98, imgur, Upworthy (a personal favorite), and Amnesty International, although these are only a few among a truly incredible list of other fantastic organizations.
In addition to calling out the NSA, Segal’s protest also advocates the US Freedom Act. This proposed bill from 2013 states that its purpose is “To rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC.” The bill has the massive task of ending data collection by various government bodies, ending secret actions by the FISA court, and allowing for greater public transparency by internet organizations (Facebook, Wikipedia, Google) that release information regarding demands made by US governmental organizations.
You might still be wondering: what does this all mean in regards to the way I use the internet, and how is the protesting occurring? The Day We Fight Back, under Segal’s guidance, is the organized body that is spearheading the caging of that miscreant NSA. The protest is organized with interactive online banners, which read, “Dear Internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA. We want new laws that curtail online surveillance. TODAY WE FIGHT BACK.” Included in the banner are two options to add your phone number and email address, which will provide easy calling and email outlets for you to contact your legislators, which is the ultimate goal of February 11th’s manifestation. The fight does not stop with the banners: if you value a society where illegal surveillance does not occur, put away your Guy Fawkes masks and call your legislators. This protest should inspire you to protect the values of open-internet culture and to push social responsibility and equality by citizens, representatives, and governing bodies and their organizations.
Today is the day of rage. Today we need to cage that demeaning Agency and take away its overextended privileges.
Today is the Day We Fight Back.