CISPA: How To Fight The Online Spying Bill Currently Before Congress

CISPA is the newest online spying bill to threaten Internet freedom and privacy in America. This article will teach you about the bill, as well as show you how to join the fight against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.

Coming on the heels of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act -- which were shelved by Congress in January after Web powerhouses like Wikipedia, Google and Reddit participated in a web blackout protest -- CISPA is the biggest threat to the Internet as we know it currently before the U.S. Congress.

The bipartisan measure, also known as the Rogers-Rupperberger Cyber Security Bill, would provide a new framework for companies and governments to share information collected online with one another in order to fight against cyber attacks. Co-sponsor Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., says CISPA provides essential tools for repelling online security threats:

Without important, immediate changes to American cyber security policy, I believe our country will continue to be at risk for a catastrophic attack to our nation's vital networks, networks that power our homes, provide our clean water or maintain the other critical services we use every day, Ruppersberger said.

But Internet freedom advocates including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Anonymous hacktivist collective are fighting the bill, and Anonymous has taken down the websites of USTelecom and TechAmerica in recent days in retaliation for their support of CISPA, according to the RTTNews.com newswire.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explained its opposition in a statement released last month:

It's a little piece of SOPA wrapped up in a bill that's supposedly designed to facilitate detection of and defense against cybersecurity threats. The language is so vague that an ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.

Internet freedom and privacy advocates also warn that it could be misused to target non-criminal activity, either by restricting uses of intellectual property or infringing on people's rights to privacy online. 

Now that you've learned about this dangerous bill, also known as HR 3523, here's a breakdown on ways that you can join the fight against it. From letter writing campaigns to boots-on-the-ground protests, there are many ways you can get involved in this monumental fight:

DemandProgess.org has what may be the most popular site aimed at fighting back against CISPA. Simply visit the site's letter campaign center, and you can easily fill out a form that will send a personal or pre-fabricated letter to your specific lawmakers. This one has gone viral in recent days, and is one of the best ways to ensure that your voice is being heard on this issue.

FreePress.net has set up an online petitioning site where you can easily fill out a form that will send the following message to Congress: I urge you to vote NO on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523). There may be effective ways to protect vital national interests from cyber attacks. But we must use means that do not threaten our online rights the way this bad legislation does.

Though it often seems as though the word of the people is trampled by special interests and corporations, petitions such as this at FreePress.net have contributed to changing votes in the past. Millions of people signed a petition opposing SOPA in late 2011 and early 2012, and the bill was eventually shelved when a number of congressional seemingly determined that it was not in their interest that so many voters so strongly opposed. So signing this petition and forwarding it to your family and friends is a good first step toward getting Congress to shelve CISPA.

The Website Avaaz.org has one of the most popular petitions aimed at stopping CISPA's progress, with more than 630,000 people having signed it so far. This one is hosted internationally, and is collecting signatures from people around the world who are opposed to the United States' efforts to limit Internet freedom. By filling out the simple petition form you can join this effort to block CISPA, and you can actually see a stream of all the people signing the petition, which also accepts signers from the United States.

Another petition set up by Change.org is gathering signatures in an effort to stop CISPA from moving forward. The format is similar to that of the FreePress.net one, so sign both if you want to maximize your impact on the debate over CISPA.

For more links to petition and letter campaign sites, visit this Yahoo Answers link, which provides an extensive list of such outlets.

Another way you can get involved in fighting back against CISPA is to join groups aimed at stopping the bill on Facebook and other social networking sites. Here's a link to a number of these types of groups, and you can find more by doing a quick Facebook or Google search. Being in these groups will help you stay abreast of all the news related to the anti-CISPA movement.

To stay even more in touch with everything CISPA, be sure to watch the hashtags #CISPA and #StopCISPA on Twitter. Posts associated with these hashtags will help you keep even more informed about the issues related to the bill, and will also help you figure out what well-informed Twitter users you should follow on Twitter.

Being in these types of Facebook groups and keeping on top of developments on Twitter will also help you determine where and when on-the-ground CISPA protests will take place. Attending these is one of the best ways to get out your anti-CISPA message.

Share this article