Group builds Twitter path to senators in Cybersecurity Act fight

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is using an interactive Twitter tool that has opponents to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 flooding the Twitter accounts of U.S. senators.

Powered by an interactive tool deployed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, opponents of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 are filling the Twitter streams of U.S senators in a crowd-sourcing move reminiscent of the outcry against anti-piracy legislation earlier this year.

The tool, available on a site called Stop Cyber Spying, has users enter their zip code and click a button that says “Find my Reps.” Users are presented with a field to enter a Tweet or use pre-crafted Tweets addressed to their senator’s Twitter handle.

“We are hearing from contacts in DC that they are getting Tweets much faster than phone calls,” said Rainey Reitman, activism director at the EFF. "They are saying we are having an impact." Reitman did not have numbers on how many Tweets have been sent since the tool went live over the weekend.

After Tweeting, the EFF tool directs users to a website run by the American Library Association that provides a tool to place phone calls to senators.

“Tonight we are planning to put up another tool that will help people find senators on Facebook,” Reitman said.

The goal of the effort is not only to voice opposition against the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA), but to support pro-privacy amendments to CSA such as the Franken-Paul Amendment, which calls for tougher privacy rules, and oppose anti-privacy amendments such as McCain and Hutchison.

The EFF says CSA “would let companies like Facebook and Google monitor our online communications and then pass that data to the government without a warrant.”

Backers of the bill say it will help protect industries from cyber attacks.

CSA could come up for vote as early as tomorrow evening. The site reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is angling for a procedural vote, a move that may signal Reid thinks the bill can't be saved.  Nearly 70 amendments to the proposed legislation have been offered, some that have nothing to do with cybersecurity, which has confused the CSA effort.

“We hope we can defeat this tomorrow,” said Reitman. “But we know a victory will be temporary. We are going to have to keep fighting these privacy legislation issues for a long time.” To wit, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House in April.

Reitman says EFF is fighting on two fronts; one to defeat CSA and another to add amendments such as Franken-Paul in order to lessen the impact if CSA is ultimately approved.

The EFF is not the only group rallying opposition. Fight for the Future has set up a website to support a campaign called “Do you have a Secret?”

It focuses on the CSA amendments and warns users the National Security Agency could be empowered to spy on the online activity of private citizens. The group is collecting signatures on a petition and encouraging people to call their senators.

This type of crowd-sourced opposition by advocacy groups or interested parties is becoming an effective tool to voice support or opposition to legislation. Google and Wikipedia rallied nearly 15 million people in separate campaigns to defeat the Stop Online Privacy Act earlier this year.

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