Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: Fighting back

“The Day We Fight Back” is an online campaign that launched day in pursuit of ending mass government surveillance by the National Security Agency on the Internet. This campaign was created not only to protest mass spying by the NSA, but also to honor the deceased Aaron Swartz and the anniversary of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act.

Protests against the U.S. bill, SOPA/PIPA made a monumental impact on the Internet in 2012 when the bill threatened our freedom of speech online. This campaign, inspired by technology genius and civil rights activist Aaron Swartz, banded against the U.S. bill that proposed blacked access to sites that allowed for user-generated content.

The SOPA/PIPA blackout protests generated millions of participants, including Google, and ended up changing the minds of enough people in Congress to eventually kill the bill like Beatrix Kiddo. This blackout was so successful that it has been considered the gold standard of web-based protests. Drawing inspiration from this success, The Day We Fight Back launched yesterday to curtail NSA surveillance abuses.

In light of Edward Snowden’s public disclosure of controversial NSA surveillance programs this summer, the fight to restrain these practices has generated a lot of attention. The Day We Fight Back encouraged people to call their legislators and social media websites to put up banners protesting against the NSA programs that attack our basic rights to connect and communicate in private.

Some do not feel affected by these intrusive programs because, well, they don’t think they have anything to hide. On the other hand, others who are also allegedly doing nothing wrong have a huge problem with these programs. And those who are actually doing something wrong? Well, that’s a different story — and a sensitive question as to why the NSA hasn’t caught them yet.

The Day We Fight Back’s platform is an honorable attempt at encouraging people to care about their basic right to privacy granted by the fourth amendment. Their stance is that a free and open Internet is fundamental for a free and open society. This unconstitutional surveillance existed long before we even knew about it, and it is time that we as a society finally do something about it.

As Edward Snowden wrote last week, “Study after study has shown that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectivelyハareハless free.”

However, despite the campaign’s good intentions, it will unfortunately not achieve the success of that protests against SOPA/PIPA did. The SOPA campaign was so effective in 2012 because it had a clear goal of reversing the bill in question.

The Day We Fight Back, on the other hand, is looking to accomplish everything involved in subverting the NSA, rather than setting specific short-term goals for its participants. This campaign lacks focus, and therefore lacks effectiveness.

Although The Day We Fight Back wasn’t nearly as effective and widespread as the protests against SOPA/PIPA, it definitely is a step in the right direction. This campaign was strategically placed on the Internet as it targeted people directly where they are affected.

More than 6,000 websites, such as Upworthy.com, blogs like Boing Boing, Web platforms like Drupal and companies like ThoughtWorks, put up images supporting the action. Yet, although these are all websites with a great amount of traffic, they are not as notable or large as Facebook, Google or Wikipedia.

As we have seen in the past with the occupy movements, mass civil rights movements are possible. But, the key is having a direct focus — exactly what The Day We Fight Back lacks. A boycott of this proportion would cause a big enough ripple to make a difference, however everyone knows how unrealistic it would be to get people to stop using the Internet.

Boycotting the Internet would do too much damage to our daily lives, the way we receive information and the fundamentals of journalism. If anything, the fact that the NSA can so freely intervene and track us on something as critical to our lives is quite unsettling.

The government knows the control and reliance we as a society have on the Internet, and thus they know no matter how mad we get about them tracking us on it, we won’t stop using it. Although the hashtags, Facebook pages and campaigns around The Day We Fight Back garnered attention, it is very unlikely to lead to any lasting change.

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