Internet Blackout On April 22nd in Protest of CISPA: The Time Has Come For Another Online Strike!




More than a year ago, after the biggest Internet support ever against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the Internet hacking group Anonymous calls for another Internet blackout on Monday April 22nd . This time, it's against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), better known as the controversial law trying to control and censor the people.

Before developing the reasons for this new online protestation, we should remember what exactly happened on January 18th 2012 with SOPA.

Based upon diverse concerns that SOPA would bypass the “safe harbor” protection of the DMCA, censorship the Internet, and violate the first amendment, for the first time in the Internet history, we saw a massive revolution from the Internet users and important Web 2.0 websites. The “Internet blackout” will certainly remain an example of the biggest Internet support ever. A few days later, on the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union citizens also organized an enormous manifestation in the 27 countries to protest against ACTA.

As a consequence of this “revolution”, U.S. Congress was forced to set aside SOPA and PIPA. To make sure that the Internet Age evolves in a manner compatible with the democracy[1], these acts must not remain isolated, but, on the contrary, have to prove that the abuse of power has no place in a democracy.

The largest online strike that occurred on January 18, clearly showed a first and important victory of the Internet against Hollywood-backed Congress. In the United States, Wikipedia was the prominent protester and made a huge impact with a 24-hour outage.[2] The website quoted that “more than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge.”[3] Wikipedia tried to explain to the Internet users the importance of the Internet and the impact of repressive bills. The website explained that “for over a decade, [they] have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”[4]

Reddit, Craigslist and the black patch across the Google logo were other examples of protestation. Other everyday websites such as Twitter and Facebook[5] did not join the online strike. Even if sometimes words can speak louder than action, this may demonstrate that they were not too much concerned by PIPA and SOPA, whereas Facebook, for instance, was targeted by these bills.

Some other statistics also shown how technology community and social media expression are extremely significant. Twitter saw more than 2.4 millions SOPA-related Tweets in 4 hours[6], while 4.5 million people signed Google's anti-SOPA/PIPA petition, according to the Los Angeles Times.[7] The people also shown their discontent through international protest movement such as The Occupy Movement and Anonymous Group. Especially the latter was omnipresent in the media because of, among other things, its operations involving distributed denial of service (DDoS) “attacks” to government’s websites such as the United States Department of Justice and the FBI[8], but also through solidarity campaigns, like “One day without the 99%”[9] and “Our Polls”.[10]

However, this strike by Google and Wikipedia was seen as to be an “abuse of trust and a misuse of power”[11] by some people and in particular Cary H. Sherman, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He argued that “when Wikipedia and Google purport to be neutral sources of information, [they] exploit their stature to present information that is not only not neutral but affirmatively incomplete and misleading, they are duping their users into accepting as truth what are merely self-serving political declarations.”[12] It is difficult to judge who is allow or not allow to protest, and why. It is certainly easier to defend Wikipedia which is a “human creation” while Google is a huge actor in the Internet market. However, without Google’s action[13], it will be a victory for the Internet censorship and not for the democratic Internet.

After the biggest online protest against PIPA and SOPA, the world faced another record with the largest offline revolution against copyright legislation on February 11, 2012.[14] In more than 200 European cities, people took the streets to defend a free and open Internet.[15] At the same time, it was also possible to vote online against the ratification of ACTA in Europe. Again, this clearly demonstrates that offline and online Internet users need to be taken into account when Governmental institutions are trying to pass treaties or bills that may have an impact on their everyday life.

CISPA just passed the House of Representatives last Thursday by a margin of 288 to 127. In general terms, this bill allows corporations to share customers' personal data (such as emails) with other firms and the U.S. government, even in cases in which a company has a signed contract explicitly vowing not to do so (for more info click here). For instance, anyone with a Facebook account could now have their data shipped directly to the U.S. government.

A statement (and a video) from the Anonymous Group was posted on their website:

We are going dark on MONDAY April 22nd at 6 AM GMT for 24 hours to protest your illogical and terrorizing bill against the Internet itself. Even with the whole Internet crying out to stop this BILL, the US House of Representatives failed to do so blinded by lobbyist's money and cum in your eyes. So we will take action ourselves and open your eyes. Every popular/mainstream websites will be black until you, Mr. DronObama promise us to use your VETO power to stop this bill at Senate. Take this as a protest or a warning, as you wish. One thing is for certain, neither you or anyone else in this world can control the Internet, so don't even try. Stop wasting taxpayers' money into doing these kind of shenanigans.



It’s really time to act and to protect your Internet!













Twitter: #CispaBlackout



[1] Amy Goodman, Internet Censorship Affects Everybody”: Rebecca MacKinnon on the Global Struggle for Online freedom, Thurt-Out.org (Jan. 18, 2012), http://www.truth-out.org/internet-censorship-affects-everybody-rebecca-mackinnon-global-struggle-online-freedom/1326910185
[2]  Justin Massoud, RIAA chief: SOPA & PIPA were killed by misinformation (Feb. 25, 2012), http://www.myce.com/news/riaa-chief-sopa-pipa-were-killed-by-misinformation-59332/
[4] Id.
[5] Mike Flacy, Mark Zuckerberg speaks out against SOPA, rediscovers Twitter, Digital Trends (Jan. 18, 2012), http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/mark-zuckerberg-speaks-out-against-sopa-rediscovers-twitter/
[6] Twitter(@twitter). “2.4+ million SOPA-related Tweets from 12am-4pm ET today. Top 5 terms: SOPA, Stop SOPA, PIPA, Tell Congress, #factswithoutwikipedia”.”18 Jan 12, 7:37 PM. Tweet.
[7] Google says 4.5 million people signed anti-SOPA petition today, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2012/01/google-anti-sopa-petition.html. For more details, see Deborah Netburn, SOPA blackout: How many have joined the fight?, Los Angeles Times, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2012/01/sopa-blackout-how-many-have-joined-the-fight.html.
[8] Andrew Couts, Anonymous, Occupy launch ‘Our Polls’ campaign against SOPA, PIPA, NDAA supporters in Congress, Digital Trends (Feb. 27, 2012), http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/anonymous-occupy-launch-our-polls-campaign-against-sopa-pipa-ndaa-supporters-in-congress/
[9] On May 1, 2012 will be a day without the 99%: No Work, No School, No Housework, No Shopping, No Banking for a people’s general strike, http://www.occupymay1st.org/
[10] This campaign “targets members of Congress who supported a variety of bills [Occupy Movement and Anonymous] groups find particularly offensive. Namely: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)”: Andrew Couts, supra note 146.
[11] Cary H. Sherman, What Wikipedia Won’t Tell You, The New York Times (Feb. 7, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/opinion/what-wikipedia-wont-tell-you.html
[12] Id.
[14] Ernesto, Massive Street Protests Wage War On ACTA Anti-Piracy Treaty, TorrentFreak (Feb. 11, 2012), http://torrentfreak.com/massive-street-protests-wage-war-on-acta-anti-piracy-treaty-120211/
[15] Id.

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