Reddit, Mozilla to stage Fourth of July protest against NSA spying

Reddit, Mozilla and a host of other websites are planning to launch an online protest this Fourth of July against the National Security Agency's (NSA) sweeping surveillance of telephone records and Internet traffic.

The participating sites, including 4chan and WordPress, will display anti-NSA spying messages on their home pages. They will also direct people to the site CallForFreedom.org, where supporters can donate money to help fund TV ads against the intelligence programs and press for action from lawmakers.

The Internet Defense League, a coalition of online activists and websites that banded together after the wave of protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is organizing the anti-NSA surveillance campaign.

The group is billing the July 4th online protest as its biggest one since SOPA, and estimates that thousands of sites will participate — though it's unclear whether the effort will have the same success in Washington.

This time around, protesters won't have the heft of Google, Wikipedia and some of the other Web companies that participated in the Internet blackout last January.

“The NSA programs that have been exposed are blatantly unconstitutional, and have a detrimental effect on free speech and freedom of press worldwide. This is going to be our biggest protest since SOPA, and it should be no surprise," said Tiffiniy Cheng, a spokeswoman for the Internet Defense League, in a statement.

"You can’t disregard people’s privacy, invade their personal lives on a daily basis, and not expect them to fight back.”

Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox Web browser, and advocacy groups Free Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ColorofChange.org and Restore the Fourth also announced Tuesday that rallies will be held in major cities across the United States, including Washington and San Francisco, on July 4th to protest the surveillance programs and call for more government accountability.

"We need to bring these government and corporate activities into the light of day," said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, on a conference call with reporters.

The revelations over NSA surveillance have sparked outrage among privacy and civil liberties activists, who argue that Edward Snowden's leaks about the programs have revealed the government is flouting the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The groups said the protests are intended to push the government to curb these programs.

"At its core, we see this kind of activity [as] undermining the trust and fabric of what an open Internet can and should be," said Harvey Anderson, senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Mozilla, which is known for producing open-source Web software.

Mozilla has not been linked to the NSA surveillance program PRISM, which is used to monitor Internet traffic, unlike its other Web peers Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

When asked why Mozilla hasn't been approached by the NSA to hand over data, Anderson said he was unsure, but noted the company generally tries to minimize the collection of people's data online.

"It's unclear why we weren't approached," Anderson said. "I really don't know, other than the fact that we really don't collect a lot of data."

Lending his star power to the cause, actor John Cusack also participated on the call. Cusack, who serves as a Freedom of Press Foundation board member, lambasted the media and government for focusing too much attention on Snowden and his whereabouts rather than looking at the information in the documents he leaked.

"We've shifted the conversation to almost anything but the revelations that are there," Cusack said.