Anonymous calls for blackout against CISPA; a pity it won't work

Anonymous calls for blackout against CISPA; a pity it won't work

Summary: We may all wail and gnash our teeth, but without the backing of tech firms, we've lost the case.

Credit: CNET

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has passed the U.S. House and is winging its way to the Senate, but not without a fight.

It was the dream of many that the controversial CISPA bill, having fallen before, would lie undisturbed in its grave after being uncerimoniously booted into the box by the enraged online community. However, now having passed the U.S. House with 288-127 in favor, the legislation has numerous privacy advocates and rights groups in uproar.

CISPA allows firms and agencies from the private sector to acquire and search sensitive data relating to U.S. citizens. Blanketed under the guise of using such sharing — without court-ordered warrants — in order to combat cybercrime, data including heath records, banking and online activity could be shared without anonymization.

Other factors to consider are that tech giants including Twitter, Facebook and Google would not be able to protect your privacy, as no legal reprisal could be mounted against such data sharing, and U.S. intelligence agencies would be able to hand over classified information to groups without security clearance.

See also: CISPA passes U.S. House: Death of the Fourth Amendment? | Under CISPA, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, others can't promise to protect your privacy | Chris Wysopal, Veracode: U.S. Government worst at data security | What is CISPA, and what does it mean for you? FAQ

A number of groups and firms have publicly criticized the bill, including digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Mozilla. Over 800,000 people have signed a petition in an attempt to stop CISPA getting as far as it already has in the U.S. government's law process. 

Today, a number of websites have agreed to block themselves voluntarily. A list of websites joining the protest include hacker and Anonymous-based sites, as well as a bunch of Tumblr accounts. Hundreds are joining, but the list is still woefully short of prestigous names and services that would secure at least a passing glance by those with the power to stop the bill going through.


A Stop CISPA group on Facebook has been formed, and hashtags #CISPABlackout and #StopCISPA have trended at various times this morning. It'll be interesting to see if the trends continue to gain traction as the day progresses, but the difference between this and the last 'blackout' is profound.

While a number of well-known websites chose to block themselves in protest to SOPA, 28 large tech companies backed the CISPA bill from the start — IBM and Intel among the bill's fans. When the threat of the Stop Online Piracy Act surfaced, Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out for a day on February 18. Google chose not to completely censor its search results, but did publicly acknowledge its support of the cause, and highlighted the issue on its home page, something that would have brought the bill to light for hundreds of thousands of online users in a single day.

Especially important was when those hunting on Wikipedia for a quick answer to a question found that they could not use the resource. 

As ZDNet's Violet Blue writes, when the CISPA bill first came to light, it was spun to keep it as far away as possible from the blackouts, outrage and public protests that the SOPA legislation fueled. The media was misinformed, legislation wording was vague, tech companies supported it — perhaps wondering how they could capitalize on all that data, just seeing dollar signs — and those paying lip-service attempted to sway attention not to the particulars of the bill itself, but on how cybercrime stemming from other countries had to be stopped.

President Obama talked about how cybercrime was more of a threat than terrorism, and a back-and-forth between the U.S. and China resulted in pointed fingers about which nation was more of a cybercrime menace. If we consider the right to privacy and data protection more important than government whims, perhaps the question is answered in the former.

Bill advocates didn't want another SOPA outrage on their hands, and they may have succeeded. A "Stop CISPA" blackout may gain traction across social media today, but reaction to the bill simply hasn't resulted in the same levels of fury that SOPA did — although in its own way, it is just as much of a threat to citizen rights as the Stop Online Piracy Act. In addition, without public backing by the few large tech names that provide everyday services we rely upon, such as Wikipedia and Google, the bill simply does not gain the exposure that it needs. 

Google is "watching the process closely," but has taken no official stance on the bill. Sadly, industry group Technet — with members including Google and Facebook — supports CISPA. As much as we may rally together and scream about the bill, without these kinds of names to bring it all together and wield power that goes beyond our Twitter rants and rages to inform others, we're fighting a lost battle.

As the bill moves into Congress, perhaps it's already out of our hands, and nothing can be done except hope that President Obama makes good on his threat to refuse to sign the bill if it passes his desk. 

Topics: Censorship, Data Management, Government US

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  • Why are you encouraging us to roll over and play dead?

    Rather than cooperate with CISPA's supporters by 'sadly' encouraging mass helplessness, why not suggest writing forthwith to our senators and to the President urging them to reject this privacy-invading monstrosity?
    • Really?

      YEA!!! That'll make 'em listen to us! NOT!
      • Yes, I get it that Congress is bought and paid for

        But at this point public pressure is the only thing that even has a chance of stopping CISPA, so I advocate for it. As others have said, let's take a look at who supports this bill and we'll see who it really benefits.
      • If they think it may cost them their seats, they will

        Campaign contributions aren't worth much if your constituents turn against you.
        John L. Ries
    • Exactly

      But i guess ZDNet supports CISPA, when everyone is in Government Dungons for sharing their facebook account information with a friend they will think twice about their increible levels of stupidity.
      • Here is the funny thing... Real funny in some respects.

        It would be difficult for me to say in any way otherwise that the majority of the writers here at ZDNet support the iea of cloud computing for the most part.

        Here is the thing, this bill will deal the worst possible of all blows to cloud computing in its largest of form factors.

        If this bill passes, all those who will have the least bit of interest in placing even moderatly sensitive data in the cloud, please raise their hand all those still interested??

        • re: Here is the funny thing. . .

          Bueller? . . . Bueller?
          rocket ride
          • You got it.

            Nuff said.
      • Not Likely

        The thing is CISPA allows sharing of information, SOPA would have effectively eliminated the internet as we know it today.

        So, because the tech giants don't see CISPA as a threat to their business, they simply don't care.

        Should we care? The majority of us who are law abiding citizens probably shouldn't care if our information is shared with the government or not. Now, if you are not a law abiding citizen or have classified work that goes through these companies, then there might be another story there.

        Overall, our lives just aren't interesting enough for the government to care.

        I also haven't seen anything that details out how this is any different than the way the law currently stands. I mean if the police come and ask you for information about your neighbor, you are under no obligation to tell them unless they have a warrant, but you are free to tell them anyway if you chose to do so. Once they have a warrant, there is no choice. Form what I have read about CISPA, this is the same thing.
        • not the same thing at all

          Your neighbor doesn't have access to your private information.
        • People keep saying...

          ... that there's always a price for the product, even if the company is getting paid because the user is the product being sold.

          Think about it. If you're one of the companies with all of the information, and people are making millions selling personal information... why on EARTH would you stop it?

          Personal information is the new "gold" of the internet age, and companies like google own the mines. Think they're going to vote to turn off the faucet on all that beautiful money changing hands?

          But I think we all know the answer to that one.

          Bills like SOPA were unpopular because way too many people you meet online are hopeless closet child porn addicts (if they even have the decency to be in the closet about it, anymore). This one's just about information, and most people never think far enough to realize how or why someone having all that info even MIGHT be a bad thing.

          People being ignorant + companies making lots of money = no die.
          • Ridiculous

            There's no way that child porn users affected the results of sopa. The reason to reject this is that it's way too broad and if any government agency wants my info it should require a warrant.

            This isn't going to make you safer.
          • One person's idea of 'decency' is not another persons

            And the same thing that you just spouted was said of the homosexuals, heterosexuals outside of marriage and interracials at one time.
        • There is another difference...

          ... on you missed: CISPA allows private firms to get the data with little or no oversight. That is really bad, even for "law abiding citizens".
        • WRONG

          I am so tired of this ridiculous argument..."if I am not doing anything wrong, why do I care of the government has my information". Read a book -- "Animal Farm" or "1984" "The Rise and Fall of the 3rd Riech". Government is supposed to responsible to its people not spy on them.
          • WRONG

            Yes Thank You!! It irks me so bad when people say such ignorant things like that.
    • 4th Amendment Trumps CISPA

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
      • 4th Amendment

        You gave that away with the Patriot Act. Now they want to take the rest.
      • Lol, you actually think the Constitution is still relevant.

        PATRIOT I & II did away with the majority of your 4th Amendment rights, CISPA is overturning what ever little amount remains. They've redefined the legal understanding of the words such at "papers" do not include digital documents. You do realise that they can stop and seize you if you're within 100 miles of the border, they can seize your electronic devices pretty much indefinitely on the border, and they can put you on a kill list regardless of citizenship simply because they say you're a "terrorist" - no proof needed.

        Get a grip buddy, with the highest prison population in the world by FAR, the ability to sentence mentally impaired 14 year olds to death, a history of conducting experiments on innocent and unaware citizens (MK Ultra etc) and the constant redrawing or blatant ignoring of the codes of war and Geneva Treaty on the treatment of prisoners (Gitmo, Egyptian and Polish torture prisons, extraordinary renditions etc), its been a long time since you were living in the land of the free, where the US constitution was a shining beacon of light to the rest of the world.

        You're in the world of the Neo-Con now buddy, so strap on your jackboots or prepair to get raided
  • 1/18 not 2/18

    "While a number of well-known websites chose to block themselves in protest to SOPA, 28 large tech companies backed the CISPA bill from the start -- IBM and Intel among the bill's fans. When the threat of the Stop Online Piracy Act surfaced, Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out for a day on February 18."

    JANUARY 18... JANUARY... Jesus, you'd THINK the person they got to cover CISPA would have at least been at SOPA. It would be one thing if you typed 2/18- that could be a typo... but you typed out the whole damn word. Maybe we COULD beat this thing if we had smarter Tech press.
    Will Ross