Look up in the sky -- it's not faster than a speeding bullet. It's not Anonymous giving us all the virtual finger. It's the cat signal from the Internet Defense League, beckoning all would-be Web superheroes to protest the evisceration of our civil rights.
Tomorrow is not merely Independence Day, it's also Restore the Fourth Day. This movement started on (where else?) Reddit as a response to the continuing leaks coming out of the NSA, but quickly blossomed into a thing of its own, spawning a website (Stopwatching.us) and a petition with more than 500,000 signees. The idea is to take back the Fourth Amendment rights that have been whittled away by the likes of the Patriot Act, our rubber-stamping courts, Congress, and of course, the NSA.
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While you may be spending tomorrow burning meat, guzzling beer, and trying not to blow off your appendages while celebrating our nation's birth, a few thousand of your countrymen and women will be taking to the streets and to the Web.
The list of signatories reads like a high-tech who's who; aside from all the usual three- and four-letter civil rights orgs, you'll find well-known names like Jacob Appelbaum (father of the Tor privacy tool), John Gilmore, Tim Berners-Lee, Cory Doctorow, Daniel Ellsburg, and Wil Wheaton. When Ensign Wesley Crusher is on your side, how can you lose?
Yesterday I took part in a conference call with representatives from Mozilla, Free Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Color of Change, RestoreTheFourth, and actor John Cusack, who's been quite vocal on Twitter and elsewhere about his objections to NSA spying. (I got the feeling they asked Cusack to join so that reporters like me would agree to call in.)
Most of what they had to say was fairly predictable: NSA spying undermines the nature of the open Internet. This not about right and left, it's about right and wrong. Our government used similar techniques and rationales to undermine the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. And so on.
Anna Wilmesher from the Restore the Fourth predicted more than 100,000 people would take to the streets in New York and Washington, D.C., two of roughly 100 actions planned around the nation.