How websites are protesting spying

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More than 6,000 websites on Tuesday launched a protest to demand reforms to the country’s surveillance operations.

The protest, being called The Day We Fight Back, is intended to urge lawmakers in Congress to pass a law reining in many of the most controversial programs at the National Security Agency (NSA) and elsewhere.

Many of the sites are displaying a banner urging people to call or email their members of Congress.

“Dear Internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA,” the banner says. “We want new laws that curtail online surveillance.”

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Seven major tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, have signed up to support the effort via an advocacy group called Reform Government Surveillance, which is dedicated to increasing transparency and limiting government collection of information. The coalition’s site is hosting the banner with a rotating list of facts about the NSA’s efforts.

Google is also planning a blog post to support the effort, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Civil liberties groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are helping to organize the action.

The participating sites are supporting the USA Freedom Act from Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the original author of the Patriot Act, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The bill, which has garnered broad support in both chambers of Congress, would limit or end many of the NSA’s most contentious practices, including the bulk collection of records about people’s phone calls.

Opponents of the USA Freedom Act, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), say that it would too severely limit the NSA, which could leave the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The Web protest hopes to replicate the success of a 2012 campaign to stop the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, which were intended to fight piracy online. Critics of those bills, including many major online giants, worried that would create an Internet “blacklist” and allow the government to censor online content.

--This report was updated at 10:13 a.m.