Activists plan week of protests against new House cybersecurity legislation

In an attempt to re-create the backlash that killed anti-piracy legislation earlier this year, activists are planning a "week of action" beginning on Monday to protest the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

Many of the groups leading the protest are veterans of the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press, Fight for the Future and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 


Brock Meeks, a spokesman for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the protest will rely on similar tactics as the ones used to derail the anti-piracy bills, potentially including petitions and phone calls to members of Congress. 

But he said the groups have no plans to blackout websites, which was a central component of the anti-piracy protests.  

"The aim of this week of action is to raise awareness about the serious concerns we have about CISPA," said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-director of Fight for the Future.

She said the protest will include a Twitter campaign directed at members of Congress.

Cheng and Meeks said more details about the protests will be available on Monday.

CISPA, which is authored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing information about cyber attacks.

The measure has more than 100 co-sponsors and is expected to come to the House floor for a vote during the week of April 23. 

The activists are protesting the bill because they fear it would undermine the privacy of Internet users. They argue the broad language of the bill could lead companies to hand over information unrelated to cyber attacks, including users' names, addresses and Internet activity. 

They are also concerned because the bill would give military spy agencies, such as the National Security Agency, access to the information the companies share with the government.

The House Intelligence Committee created a Twitter account for the first time last week to try to push back against criticism of the bill. Many of the first tweets on the account have focused on trying to dispel the notion that CISPA is similar to SOPA.

It is unclear whether the protests will attract the same level of attention that forced Congress to abandon the anti-piracy bills in January. Major websites such as Google and Wikipedia participated in the anti-piracy protests, but many Web companies, including Facebook, actively support CISPA.

Rainey Reitman, activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said she is hopeful the protest will attract more attention to the information-sharing provisions of the bill.

"How far they're willing to amend it often reflects how intense the criticism is," Reitman said. "Gathering a lot of force right now could cause them to amend or give up entirely on the bill."