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Internet rights activists launch #CISPABlackout over ‘Big Brother law’

Internet rights activists launch #CISPABlackout over ‘Big Brother law’
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The US House of Representatives may have voted in favour of the controversial online security law Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) on April 18, but privacy rights activists are not giving up the fight. Among them, hacktivist group Anonymous is calling for various actions, including an “Internet Blackout Day” on Monday, to protest against the law.

Initially, over 400 websites went black. In addition, almost 830,000 people have signed a petition on that states “CISPA would give private companies and the US government the right to spy on any of us at any time for as long as they want without a warrant.(…) we can beat this new Big Brother law”

A website from the Anon nebulae even offers netizens the HTML and CSS code needed to black out their website in protest. Other parts of the hacktivists group are tirelessly whipping up the online crowd to take actions against CISPA.

In addition to the ongoing online activism, on April 15 a coalition of 34 civil liberties and Internet rights groups wrote an open letter to the US Congress, urging lawmakers to vote “no”.

Their letter warned: “CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity. […] CISPA’s information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies.”

CISPA nevertheless passed on a bipartisan vote of 288-127 on April 18, although the White House repeated its veto threat if further civil liberties protections are not added. The Entertainment Consumers Association is now calling on opponents to write to US President Barack Obama to make good on his promise and veto CISPA.

The April 18 vote is the second go-around for CISPA after it passed the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate after President Obama threatened to veto it over privacy concern.

Civil liberties activists face off against industry giants supporting CISPA. They include the wireless group CTIA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and TechNet, which represents big technology companies such as Google, Apple, Yahoo! and Cisco Systems, Reuters reports.

Anonymous’ call to action is reminiscent of the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). That legislation was killed after widespread protests, petitions and blackouts. Up to 7,000 websites, including Wikipedia in English went black on January 18, 2012.

Constituents’ negative feedback was so overwhelming that it caused a shift overnight in US lawmakers’ positions on the bill effectively shelving the bill.