What is CISPA and what happened to the planned blackout to protest it?

What is CISPA and what happened to the planned blackout to protest it?

The hacker group Anonymous called for a voluntary Internet blackout to protest CISPA, but at this time no major websites seem to be participating. So what is CISPA anyway, and why would anyone want to protest it? Furthermore, why did the CISPA blackout fail to get high profile participants?

What is CISPA?

CISPA is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Supporters of CISPA say it is necessary to protect against unlawful intrusions to computer systems, commonly referred to as hacking. Opponents object to CISPA because it would allow the federal government to perform warrantless searches of Internet data including browsing histories, email and private posts to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Several proposed amendments to CISPA that attempted to protect data privacy, such as one that would prevent employers from making employees provide their social media passwords, were rejected before the bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives 288-127.

Anonymous called for a voluntary Internet Blackout on April 22 for websites to show opposition to CISPA.  The intent was draw attention and force the general public to wonder "what is CISPA" and, hopefully, become vocally opposed to it once they find out. A similar blackout was participated in by a number of major websites to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was defeated. For SOPA major websites including Wikipedia and Google participated by at least blacking out their logos with a link to information about SOPA. For CISPA there are at least 450 websites participating in the blackout, but this list of participating sites doesn't include widely familiar urls that might really make an impact on the general public.

CISPA Blackout

Example of a website blacked out in protest of CISPA (http://www.ninapotts.com/)

 Why did the CISPA blackout protest fail to get widespread participation?

There are likely a few possible reasons why major players did not participate in the planned CISPA blackout.

  • The SOPA blackout was initiated by Wikipedia and the CISPA blackout was called for by Anonymous. Anonymous is a rogue group tied to illegal computer intrusions and attacks, which may be why large companies may not want to publicly align with them no matter how noble their intent.
  • Today is also Earth Day, so activist minded sites may already have had plans to promote that such as with today's Google doodle.
  • Some analysts are confident that CISPA will not pass. The Senate did not pass a similar bill that came out of the House last year, and President Obama has threatened to veto CISPA if the Senate does pass it. Although in this political client nothing can be certain in Washington this confidence could undermine initiative to protest CISPA.
  • Maybe people just don't care about the government having access to their data. Maybe fear of events like the Boston Marathon bombings had outweighed fears of a surveillance society.

The CISPA blackout is still active on Twitter

Although large Internet companies do not appear to be participating in the CISPA blackout discussion of the blackout is active on Twitter as you can see following the CISPABlackout hashtag.

 

The big question is not "What is CISPA?" The big question is "Does anyone care about privacy anymore?" Do you?

 

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