Thousands of Europeans rallied as one against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which they believe is a draconian attack on online privacy.
In Brussels, hundreds turned up at the city center with banners and slogans denouncing the bill, drawing parallels between the treaty and George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984; a reference to the increased internet surveillance ACTA would allow.
German protesters got in on the act too, wearing the Guy Fawkes masks associated with the Anonymous and Occupy movements, brandishing banners saying "don’t give ACTA a chance".
More protests are expected on Saturday in the United States, with hundreds in New York and Kansas City using social networks to confirm their attendance at the rallies.
ACTA, which has been in the works since 2007, is a multinational treaty for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. It aims to establish a global legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet, and would create a new governing body outside existing forums like the World Trade Organization or the United Nations.
Its supporters claim the treaty is the only way to respond to “the increase in global trade of counterfeit goods and pirated copyright protected works.” But opponents consider it an act of war, clamping down on freedom of expression and privacy.
The future of ACTA is already in question, not only because of continuous global protests, but because of dwindling government support as well. Earlier this year, the treaty lost three crucial European Parliament committee votes – which many say may reflects on how the EU Parliament will vote on the treaty in July.
The European Union suspended efforts to ratify the treaty in February amid a storm of protest from human rights activists. Thousands demonstrated across the EU against ACTA and the amount of power it would give to big corporations.