Inspired by fruitful virtual protests against the SOPA and PIPA online piracy bills, Internet activists have united their forces and formed an organization to protect the web from “bad laws and monopolies.”
The idea of an Internet Defense League was first suggested by Tiffiniy Cheng, the head of the Fight for the Future nonprofit group. It has already been supported by activists and web companies who reach millions of Internet users, like Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of social news web-site Reddit, and Craig Newmark, founder of the free online classified network Craigslist.
"The Internet Blackout was just the beginning," wrote the league founders, who actively took part in January’s protests against SOPA and then PIPA bills. "Together, our websites and personal networks can mobilize the planet to defend the Internet from bad laws and monopolies. Are you in?"
The list of members also includes WordPress, the viral content company Cheezburger Network, the non-profit Public Knowledge, the imaging hosting site Imgur and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The group is likening itself to the Internet version of a "bat signal”, which was originally used in the famous Batman stories as a means for police to call for his help in critical situations. But instead of well-known stylized symbol of a bat, the League’s “signal” is a projected cat.
The Internet Blackout – the mass protest joined by thousands of websites, including heavyweights like Wikipedia and Google on January 18 – was instigated when SOPA was put to a vote in the US Congress. To show their condemnation of the bill, the world’s biggest online encyclopedia went on strike for 24 hours. Reddit for its part opted for a 12-hour blackout.
Cheng said the league’s formal launch is planned in two weeks time to coincide with Congress’ return to session.
For those who feel inspired to defend Internet freedom, joining the League will not take much. It is as simple as entering the URL of your website, Twitter, or Tumbler account onto the Internet Defense League's website.
“Whatever website you own, this is a way for you to be notified if something comes up and takes some basic actions…If we aggregate everyone that’s doing it, the numbers start exploding.”
Once you signed up, you will receive “sample alert code to get working in advance. The next time there's an emergency, we'll tell you and send new code. Then it's your decision to pull the trigger,” the instructions read.
So, when the Internet is in danger and the actions of millions of people are needed, the League will call on its members to act.
Fight for the Future and Alexis Ohanian have both been recently focused on defeating CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act. CISPA has sold as a necessary tool in America’s war against cyber attacks.
Last week Fight for the Future launched its anti-CISPA site "Privacy is Awesome", asking Internet users to call their senators and demand meetings to discuss the bill. Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives approved CISPA. The US Senate is now set to weigh in on the bill. If signed into law, CISPA will allow federal agencies to comb through the personal information and intimate correspondence of anyone in America. It will also protect private businesses who share information with the government and each other from legal liability.
The bill has been strongly opposed by Internet freedom activists.