How SOPA protests were used to push CISPA

How SOPA protests were used to push CISPA

Summary: CISPA authors and supporters have tried everything they can to avoid another SOPA protest - except tell the truth about their bill.


The last thing authors and supporters of dangerous cybersecurity bill CISPA wanted was another SOPA on their hands.

CISPA's authors and supporters set up a defensive strategy to head off the whiff of another SOPA by taking notes from the protest. And they may have succeeded.

Here's how.

SOPA protest lesson #1: influence Silicon Valley tech media

In the beginning, CISPA's authors unconvincingly tried to spin CISPA as being nothing like SOPA in press briefings. Not for clarification - merely to distance the bill from SOPA's reputation.

After all, if SOPA was black and white to tech press, then making CISPA grey would certainly be an advantage.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and CISPA's co-author Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) staged a conference call to influence tech reporters whom they actually called "Cyber Media and Cyber Bloggers."

Most of what they told tech press about CISPA, as we have now learned, was patently untrue.

Techdirt reported that during the 7 am call,

(...) the representatives were intent on hammering certain points home: that the bill respects privacy and civil liberties, is not about surveillance, is targeted at actions by foreign states, and is nothing like SOPA.

Evidently some "Cyber Media" fell for it, because it took until April 13 for CISPA to start hitting mainstream media via tech media channels, and only then did it make any loud noise when comparisons to SOPA were made.

SOPA protest lesson #2: pretend to care

Pro-CISPA factions' intent to head off another SOPA-style protest crystallized when I attended and livetweeted the small CISPA Town Hall Meeting with House Intelligence last week here in San Francisco (arranged by Hackers and Founders).

CISPA's people seem to have learned from SOPA that trying to ram an internet bill down our throats didn't work out so well last time.

So this time they were open to hearing our concerns.

Okay, not really. But here's how they pretended to listen to our serious concerns when we got two pro-CISPA reps from Washington face-to-face last week.

A pro-CISPA senior U.S. House of Representatives aide and pro-CISPA senior counsel to the House Intelligence Committee Jamil Jaffer appeared via Google Hangout at the last-minute Town Hall.

After hearing what they had to say in response to our concerns, they could barely pretend they were there for little more than lip service.

Near the end, many of us in the room were laughing in nervous disbelief at their cavalier and dismissive responses.

We were told there was robust discussion about the bill and that the idea internet communities hate it is false. The room was told that CISPA has been a transparent and accountable process.

Questions about the NSA and potential abuse of private data and information sharing for individuals were ignored. Instead the room was told that privacy and civil liberties are a "new element" for them to consider in the future.

When asked about what they meant by concrete threats, the pro-CISPA rep conflated cybersecurity with infringement, and that China is a big major cybersecurity threat to intellectual property that needs protection under the bill.

Above all, they insisted that "no one" wants to stop this bill - at a time when there were 3/4 million signatures on the Stop CISPA petition.

The pro-CISPA reps demonstrated repeatedly that not only were they there for lip service and misdirection, they actually had no technical knowledge of what they were talking about.

The EFF's Dan Auerbaugh concluded afterward that "Congress just doesn't know enough to meddle intelligently with technology. The audience questions demonstrated this point quite sharply (...)"

SOPA protest lesson #3: make SOPA critics look like allies

Attempting to influence tech media into un-SOPA-ing CISPA is one way to get critics in your pocket. Tech press and bloggers are one major arena that the wider public looked to during SOPA for calls to action and guidance.

Another arena that got SOPA launched into consciousness and gave the protest firm footing was when major technology companies and website "utilities" like Wikipedia joined the anti-SOPA choir.

As we know, CISPA came out strong from the start with 28 large tech companies backing it: complete with letters of support from anti-SOPA corporations such as Facebook.

When it looked like CISPA was faltering, its author Rep. Mike Rogers made sure to alert the press that previously anti-SOPA Google (a company whose lack of support letter was getting anti-CISPA traction) not only completely supports CISPA, but that Google helped with the authoring of the bill.

I'll bet that right now, even though CISPA has passed the House with changes making it even more dangerous than before, Rogers and Co. would love nothing more than to get a leg up from Wikipedia.

China, indeed.

Topics: Google, Security, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Hitler's "Big Lie" strategy alive and well in Washington

    Tell it big and with a straight face, and simply ignore any factual contradictions, that's still the standard mode of operation in Washington. Along with giving bills names that are misleading or outright deceptive.

    Of course the ultimate blame still lies with us the people since we continue to re-elect known crooks to Congress, and don't pay attention when they naturally begin to rob us.
    terry flores
    • How much can people be blamed for?

      OK. So people voted for the members of congress, do they REALLY have a choice. after all, the PARTIES choose the candidates, not the voters.

      People vote for the lesser of two evils, and then realize they are the same.
      • Lesser of two evils

        People shouldn't be voting for the lesser of two evils. When you have to hold your nose when you vote, you are playing right into their hands.

        Vote your conscience. You are only wasting your vote if you don't.

        We need to petition for "None of the Above" as a ballot choice.
        sissy sue
      • No they don't...

        Most people in the United States vote for the letter that comes after a candidates name. For half of them, the 'R' stands for right, the 'D' stands for terrorist.

        Think that's not true? The same people that voted for Bush will tell you that America sucks now that Obama is president. But Obama and Bush are functionally the same thing. Nothing has changed since Obama was elected. Nothing.

        You can't really blame the parties for giving us candidates like Ricky Santorum. The American electorate are largely idiots, so we get what we deserve.
      • Lesser of two evils? Not really...

        not when what a huge percentage of people are doing is voting for the politicians who promise them the most "freebies" and benefits from government.

        People don't necessarily care for the lesser issues, such as CISPA or privacy issues, and they'll always vote on the larger issues relating to government services, such as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, Welfare, and many other government controlled projects which directly offer benefits and freebies to those "voters".

        Take away the government largess, and people will start paying attention to the "lesser" issues, and we might start turning back towards a country which respects our constitutional rights.

        But, people vote on the money issues, and if you were to ask the man on the street what CISPA or SOPA are about or how they might affect their lives, most people will answer with blank stares and wonder what the heck you're talking about.

        If CISPA or any other issue threatens to take away from their "freebies" and benefits, then the people will be up in arms. That's not the case, and people will go about their merry lives not caring in the least about their freedoms and rights. It's happening every day that, their rights are being trampled on, but, as long as they have food on the table and clothes on their backs and a place to sleep, they won't notice their constitutional guarantees being whittled away.
      • The people chose nothing.

        This is a non representative dictatorship.

        These are NOT the laws of the people. The political process is a farce; a circus where canidates chosen not by the people but elites are pushed through the controlled MSM and other canidates (Like Ron Paul) are ignored. What a scam.

        Thanks to elitist exploitation, the whole system is so obviously corrupt that is has become a joke.
      • shills scarf their bowl of stew they traded america away for.

        wow. the SHILLS are out in force, voting down the libertarian sentiments.

        Hey shills! Enjoy your bowl of Stew!
    • The strategy works

      "Of course the ultimate blame still lies with us the people since we continue to re-elect known crooks to Congress, and don't pay attention when they naturally begin to rob us."

      It's because we like our own crooks who bring in the pork, but despise the crooks other Americans elect. It's because too many of us are letting the media anesthetize our brains with sports, reality shows, celebrity gossip, and other nonsense.
      sissy sue
      • RE: letting the media anesthetize our brains

        By that, I guess you mean the 21st century equivalent of the Roman [i]bread and circuses[/i] distraction attempts.
    • Hitler's "Big Lie" strategy

      Ha! He certainly had competition from his enemies, who had long mastered the art. If Hitler had a weakness, it was being too honest and candid. What were his "big lies" out of curiosity? Communism, Zionism and unchecked Capitalism (usury) weren't going to poison and subjugate the world at large, as he preached?

      The government pipsqueaks who get foisted before us to "elect" these days couldn't tell the truth from a lie if you paid them to open their eyes -- and bank accounts. The same goes for our once American, now re-spun multinational gangster class who couldn't give a rip about America's future, or American citizens' welfare and long term security.

      *THINK" before waving the tattered red, white and blue flag. That rag is no longer owned by the people, in case you haven't noticed. No more than the corrupt Weimar Republic was owned by the Germans before Hitler took charge.
      • Hitler?

        Read the first part of Mein Kampf (did I spell that correctly?) and you will understand that this guy was brilliant at the strategy of the big lie. Then take a look at the US and tell me what you see.
        Read 1984 by Orwell, and tell me what you see.
        Then tell me you have free elections.
      • You need to dig deeper

        [i]Read the first part of Mein Kampf ... and you will understand that this guy was brilliant at the strategy of the big lie.[/i]

        Brilliant in politics? Yes. Brilliant in strategy and tactics? Beyond a doubt. Brilliant at the strategy of the big lie? Not so sure about that part. Like I said before, what were these big lies he mastered?

        If you have a grasp of history (well, to whatever extent that one actually can, and beyond what Hollywood and our one-world media moguls dish up and serve as entertainment + propaganda), you'd know his enemies were far more proficient in that art than he was. We're still being fooled at every turn today.

        The rest of what you wrote we're likely in agreement on, but that has little to nothing to do with the man cited. It's not "distortion field" bogeymen we have to worry about as Americans, but those who merrily run roughshod over the way of life we've established by selling out this country to foreign and covert bidders.

        SOPA and CISPA amount to but tiny tips of an otherwise massive iceberg. The hull is broken, mercenaries and aliens abound, and those we call officers have abandoned the deck, likely for foreign shores. Welcome to the new America.
      • The aggressive Sudetenlanders are threatening us!

        The French are about to invade. All your troubles are the fault of the family down the block's ethnicity.....
        There's some 'Big Lie' from the Third Reich's domestic propaganda organ in the late 1930s. That should help you get started salving your 'curiosity' about their existence....
      • The Sudetenlanders weren't the problem

        The same crowd that is working overtime to put a stranglehold on this country in the present era had been making similar and steady headway in Germany back during the Weimar era, to the detriment of that country. Only more so. Our depression during the same period amounted to child's play by comparison. The average German had no hope or security, and many were starving. That is, 'till Hitler came along.

        You have a very selective grasp of history, don't you hippie Karl?
  • So what is so terrible about CISPA?

    While you've made it perfectly clear you don't like CISPA and that it is "dangerous" you haven't really explained why you don't like it and why it is dangerous.

    Perhaps a follow up post is in order.
    • You missed the point

      The whole idea of CISPA is that it is simply a repackaged version of SOPA and will give the government unprecedented control over not just our privacy, but over the internet, thereby restricting the free flow of information crucial to maintaining the democratic process. Although the president has threatened a veto of CISPA [which passed on a bipartisan vote of 248-184], it is only because it does not contain enough controls in comparison to the Senate Version, which places management of the internet directly under the control of the proven incompetent hands of Janet Napolitano and her cronies at Homeland Security.
    • Have a read.

      It's only 19 pages or so. And its primary purpose appears to be stripping away more of our privacy rights. Rumor has it that some of the holes have been patched (sorta), but it is still an abortion with similar aims as the Patriot Act. Remember that one? How the rights that were stripped away with that legislation were supposed to be returned? How well did that work? If this passes, the privacy and civil liberties issues that would be "future consideration" will be permanently future, as in tomorrow never comes.
      • Actually, the Patriot Act is a mere child when compared to the Obamacare

        bill, and all of the "freedoms" you stand to lose there. When it comes to the Patriot Act, what have people actually lost? Has anybody ever lost any of their rights and freedoms? When it comes to the national health care bill passed a couple of years ago, we lose a lot more than we did under the Patriot Act. Most people don't know it, because, they're not aware of how far-reaching that bill is.
    • You Have Freedom Only When You are Free

      Constant Surveillance
      Unrestricted Data Sharing
      Profiling for preemption (aka Minority Report)
      Data mining into all areas, whether secure, private or public
      Identity data loss to identity thieves
      Profiling for present and future affirmative actions
      Your profile will be used to determine your access
      to the pending Federal Health Care (age and past
      substance or food abuses may be cause for denial
      of some medical treatments)
    • Swings the government-people pendulum way over to the side of government

      Easy - it makes government bigger and more powerful while making the people smaller and less free.