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sinak committed Feb 13, 2014
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So much for mass protest.
A consortium of Internet and privacy activists had long promoted Feb. 11 as the day the Internet would collectively stand up and shout down surveillance by the National Security Agency. The group called Tuesday, “The Day We Fight Back,” and encouraged websites to join an online campaign modeled after protests against the Stop Online Privacy Act and Protect I.P. Act two years ago, when sites like Reddit and Wikipedia and companies like Google and Facebook helped successfully topple antipiracy legislation.
A consortium of Internet and privacy activists had long promoted Feb. 11 as the day the Internet would collectively stand up and shout down surveillance by the National Security Agency. The group called Tuesday, “The Day We Fight Back,” and encouraged websites to join an online campaign modeled after protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect I.P. Act two years ago, when sites like Reddit and Wikipedia and companies like Google and Facebook helped successfully topple antipiracy legislation.
Instead, the protest on Tuesday barely registered. Wikipedia did not participate. Reddit — which went offline for 12 hours during the protests two years ago — added an inconspicuous banner to its homepage. Sites like Tumblr, Mozilla and DuckDuckGo, which were listed as organizers, did nothing to their homepages. The most vocal protesters were the usual suspects: activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.
Instead, the protest on Tuesday barely registered. Wikipedia did not participate. Reddit — which went offline for 12 hours during the protests two years ago — added an inconspicuous banner to its homepage. Sites like Tumblr, Mozilla and DuckDuckGo, which were listed as organizers, did not include the banner on their homepages. The most vocal protesters were the usual suspects: activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.
The eight major technology companies — Google, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn — that joined forces in December in a public campaign to “reform government surveillance” only participated Tuesday insofar as having a joint website flash the protest banner.
The difference may be explained by the fact that two years ago, the Internet powerhouses were trying to halt new legislation. On Tuesday, people were being asked to reverse a secret, multi-billion dollar surveillance effort by five countries that has been in place for nearly a decade.
And unlike 2012, when the goal was simply to block the passage of new bills, the goal of the protests on Tuesday were more muddled. This time around, participants were urged to flash a banner on their sites that urged visitors to call their congressional representative in support of the U.S.A. Freedom Act — a bill sponsored by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, which seeks to reform the N.S.A.’s metadata database. They were also asked to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, a bill proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein that would help legalize the N.S.A.’s metadata collection program.
All was not lost. By late Tuesday, some 70,000 calls had been placed to legislators and roughly 150,000 people had sent their representatives an email. But on privacy forums and Reddit, significant discussions failed to materialize.
All was not lost. By late Tuesday, some 70,000 calls had been placed to legislators and roughly 150,000 people had sent their representatives an email. Most of those were directed to Senator Dianne Feinstein. Brian Weiss, a spokesman for Senator Feinstein said that their Washington office had received a higher volume of calls Tuesday, but would not say how many calls the office received or even give a range.
“Online petitions,” one Reddit user wrote of the protest. “The very least you can do, without doing nothing.”
Several privacy activists took issue with the characterization that the protest was unsuccessful. “Yesterday, we sought to make a dent, while laying a foundation for escalation,” David Segal, one of the protest organizers wrote in an e-mail. “In those respects it was a tremendous success, and met every goal we’d set for it.”
Mr. Segal added, “To mark all organizing a success or failure by measuring it against the single biggest online activist moment ever is ridiculous.”
Others pointed to the fact that a Reddit post about the protest generated over 3,500 comments. Though most of those comments read like more derogatory versions of this one: “Online petitions. The very least you can do, without doing nothing.”

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