A planned day of protest against the NSA’s surveillance efforts called “The Day We Fight Back” got off to a strong start. So far, more than 69,000 phone calls have been placed to Congressional representatives, along with more than 140,000 emails as part of the effort. In-person protests are planned, as well, both in the United States and abroad.
The day’s work is also focused on pushing for the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would curtail the NSA’s surveillance activities. For a quick primer on the USA Freedom Act, TechCrunch has you covered.
Today’s push is somewhat reminiscent of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) protests of two years ago, in which websites big and small blacked out their pages in anger against the proposed legislation. Sustained furor beat the bill back. As TechCrunch pointed out earlier today, while the public does appear to be making noticeable noise, the Internet industry itself is more muted in its protest.
That’s to say that Internet companies have done nothing. Several took legal action to demand the right to share with the public the number of national security requests for user data, and won. Google today spoke out in favor of the USA Freedom Act, and also called for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. So while we might not be seeing a wave of protest today as before, there is a sustained pushback afoot in opposition to the current state of government surveillance.
TechCrunch spoke to Trevor Timm, the co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, regarding today’s protests. Last night at the Crunchies, Timm accepted Edward Snowden’s award in his absence. Regarding response among the public to The Day We Fight Back, Timm stated that reaction has been “great” with the effort “averaging 5,000 calls into Congress per hour” at one point.
What impact may the day’s protests have? In Timm’s view, the effort will perhaps encourage Congress to debate the USA Freedom Act, and oppose Senator Feinstein’s FISA Improvements Act, which in his view would “legalize mass surveillance.” According to Timm, the “USA Freedom Act has the best shot of real reform.”
You can watch the rising tally of phone calls placed and emails sent here.
Other corporate interests are supporting the day’s protests. Microsoft gave them a head nod, stating that “further reform is essential for our customers, our company and society at large – not only to help ensure the right balance between privacy and security, but to demonstrate our understanding that without liberty, we do not have security.”
Also signed onto The Day We Fight Back’s website are Mozilla, Tumblr, the EFF and the ACLU. Every tech company? No, but between Google Microsoft and the others, hundreds of billions of dollars in market cap have expressed their discontent.
When the activists are on the side of corporations, or, more precisely, some corporations are on the side of the protestors, perhaps real change is possible.