CISPA: The Next Battleground of Net Neutrality
A little over a year ago, the assembled masses of the interwebz rose in revolt against two pieces of legislation that threatened to dismantle the internet in its current open and accessible form: SOPA and PIPA. In the time directly before and after the two bills were struck down as a result of online activism, the eventual outcome from these two bills were well known to most; namely, that any site suspected of hosting unlicensed material, even if completely unfounded, could be served with a shutdown notice. Sites like Twitter, Netflix, and Wikipedia would never have been able to succeed had they launched in a post-SOPA/PIPA internet.
But fewer people may recall the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), and for one simple reason: it won’t be corporations or big-name sites like Wikipedia or Twitter that will be at risk at all.
Where SOPA and PIPA dealt in copyright protection, CISPA deals in privacy. Billed as a means of countering cyberterrorism, CISPA is essentially the Patriot Act for computers; if passed, any internet user in America may be subject to monitoring by the US government if they deem you to be a “threat.”
If you’re one to think that this doesn’t concern you on account of how you are not, in fact, a cyberterrorist, think again. Much like the Patriot Act, CISPA functions on purposely vague definitions on what constitutes a threat, or even what can be defined as cyberterrorism itself.
But if you’re still not convinced that this is a cause for concern, consider this: in drafting the bill, members of the House of Representatives have out-right refused to implement any basic guarantees of privacy into the bill’s language. Essentially, if passed, CISPA would give the government unlimited ability to spy on its people while stripping you of any assurances of due process.
Despite the backlash following the SOPA/PIPA debacle in Jan. 2012, the bill managed to pass the House of Representatives in April. But after civil rights and government transparency advocacy groups began what became known as the “Week of Action.” The American Civil Liberties Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, and others began a grassroots effort via email and Twitter. Eventually, with just enough public outcry, the bill ultimately failed to pass in the Senate.
But now, almost a year later, lawmakers are again hoping to sneak this bill through Congress, likely under the assumption that the furor seen last year has at last died down.
Let’s prove them wrong. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, DemandProgress, and numerous other internet advocacy groups all have forms to allow you to email your Congressman and Senator directly and immediately, so let them know that internet privacy won’t go down without a fight.