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Internet Freedom Day 2013

 

Exactly a year ago, on January 18, 2012, the web went dark. In an unprecedented act of Internet solidarity, some of the busiest Internet websites and search engines dimmed their colors in protest of SOPA and PIPA.  Wikipedia closed its database to users and urged them to take action against the controversial legislation through a black welcome page, the Google search engine logo featured black bars, and Reddit went dark for 12 hours.  About 2.4 million people tweeted about SOPA and PIPA, with an astounding majority criticizing the two drafts.  The campaign turned out to be extremely effective – the Congress tabled both bills just two days after the blackout.

 

Almost a year later, the public was shocked to learn that Aaron Swartz, the founder of Reddit, committed suicide on Friday, January 11.  Swartz was about to face a trial under the computer crime law, which was likely to result in exorbitant fines and years of imprisonment.  To many civil rights and Internet freedom groups, his death is a reminder that the fight for the freedom of the web is far from over.  Ironically, Reddit – a highly popular social news website and arguably Swartz’s grandest creation – was the source of the first calls for a blackout back in 2012. 

 

There are numerous non-profits whose mission is to preserve Internet freedom post-SOPA and PIPA.  Although the two polarizing bills are effectively dead, a number of other issues still haunt the digital world, some of them described below.

 

Free Press spearheads the Save The Internet coalition, which is directed specifically at protecting and promoting the freedom of the web.  The movement, with its 1,500 member organizations and 50,000 individuals, produced the Declaration of Internet Freedom, which can be signed online here

 

 

The coalition also hosts the 2013 National Conference for Media Reform in Denver, the nation’s biggest forum on media and democracy.  Other petitions and events, as well as the annual report, are also featured at savetheinternet.com.

 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights watchdog, is hosting an event in cooperation with Engine Advocacy and craigconnects on Friday, January 18, celebrating last year’s victory over SOPA and PIPA and commemorating the life and work of Aaron Swartz.  One of EFF’s chief targets is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which the organization deems too vague and inappropriately exercised.  It was the provisions of this law that greatly facilitated sending Aaron Swartz to court.  Another of EFF’s campaigns is Stop Cyber Spying, an initiative directed at the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 which the organization considers an infringement of online users' privacy. 

 

 

The Institute for Justice also joined in the fight for a freer Internet with its support for Steve Cooksey, a blogger from North Carolina persecuted by the State Government for sharing nutrition advice and related resources online.