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Internet Defense League plans ‘Bat-Signal’ for the Web to combat dangerous bills

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Every month, it seems, a new piece of legislation, or secret trade agreement, pops up that threatens to castrate the Internet as we know it. First came SOPA and PIPA. Now we have ACTA, CISPA, CSA, SECURE IT, TPP, and others. It is a veritable storm of nefarious acronyms. And for many, the bombardment is just becoming too much to keep up with. Those who spent precious time and energy to protect the Web from SOPA and PIPA are tired. When does it end?, they ask.

The answer is, of course: it doesn’t. To combat this problem of activist fatigue, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and Internet rights group Fight for the Future have come up with a solution. It’s called the Internet Defense League (IDL). Its mission: create a “Bat-Signal for the Internet,” a bit of code crafted by the IDL, which the organization hopes can be used to launch concerted online protests, similar to the Internet “blackout” that helped stop SOPA and PIPA in their tracks.

Internet Bat SignalHere’s how it works: Anyone with a website — from a personal Tumblr blog on up to major Web destinations — signs up with the IDL using an email address. Anytime a bit of legislation that threatens the open Web pops up, the IDL will release the custom-tailored code, which webmasters can embed in their site. No details about what exactly this code will do have yet been released, but the goal is clear: Alert concerned Netizens that it’s time to act; get the word out to the most people possible; and show Washington that the Internet is not to be messed with.

“We’ll invent something at the time, and it will be some really unified and shocking action,” Tiffiny Cheng, co-director of Fight for the Future, tells Forbes. “We’re creating the tools and the forms of protest that allow for viral organizing. That’s how the SOPA protests were able to get started and grow to the level they did.”

So far, Reddit, Mozilla, Imgur, Cheezburger Network, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Knowledge have all joined the Internet Defense League. There are surely many others (I added my neglected personal Tumblr blog, for instance), but those are the big names we know about at the moment.

To kick things off, the IDL, Fight for the Future, and Ohanian are campaigning heavily against CISPA (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), which the Senate has now merged with the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA), a bill that would allow for mass data sharing between the Federal government and businesses for an undefined range of law enforcement purposes. The Senate is expected to vote on CSA sometime at the beginning of June, and Fight for the Future has set up a website, Privacy Is Awesome, that allows concerned U.S. citizens to  easily contact their senators to express opposition to the legislation.

Over at Reddit, which has been designated the official Internet Defense League forum of choice, Fight for the Future has posted a list of all 99 senators (and their phone numbers) who have not yet come out against CISPA. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has bashed CISPA for its invasions of privacy, is the only senator absent from the list. (Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) also says he’s against CSA, according to some of his constituents.) Here is that list:

  • Mark Begich (AK) – (907) 271-5915
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK) – (907) 456-0233
  • Jeff Sessions (AL) – (205) 731-1500
  • Richard Shelby (AL) – (205) 731-1384
  • John Boozman (AR) – (501) 372-7153
  • Mark Pryor (AR) – (501) 324-6336
  • John McCain (AZ) – (602) 952-2410
  • Jon Kyl (AZ) – (602) 840-1891
  • Barbara Boxer (CA) – (510) 286-8537
  • Dianne Feinstein (CA) – (415) 393-0707
  • Michael Bennet (CO) – (303) 455-7600
  • Mark Udall (CO) – (303) 650-7820
  • Richard Blumenthal (CT) – (860) 258-6940
  • Joe Lieberman (CT) – (860) 549-8463
  • Chris Coons (DE) – (302) 573-6345
  • Tom Carper (DE) (302) 573-6291
  • Marco Rubio (FL) – (407) 254-2573
  • Bill Nelson (FL) – (407) 872-7161
  • Saxby Chambliss (GA) – (770)-763-9090
  • Johnny Isakson (GA) – (770) 661-099
  • Daniel Inouye (HI) – (808) 541-2542
  • Daniel Akaka (HI) – (808) 522-8970
  • Chuck Grassley (IA) (319) 363-6832
  • Tom Harkin (IA) (319) 365-4504
  • Mike Crapo (ID) – (208) 334-1776
  • James Risch (ID) – (208) 342-7985
  • Richard Durbin (IL) – (312) 353-4952
  • Mark Kirk (IL) – (847) 940-0202
  • Daniel Coats (IN) – (317) 554-0750
  • Richard Lugar (IN) – (317) 226-5555
  • Jerry Moran (KS) – (785) 628-6401
  • Pat Roberts (KS) – (785) 295-2745
  • Mitch McConnell (KY) – (270) 781-1673
  • Rand Paul (KY) – (859) 426-0165
  • Mary Landrieu (LA) – (225) 389-0395
  • David Vitter (LA) – (318) 448-0169
  • John Kerry (MA) – (617) 565-8519
  • Scott Brown (MA) – (617) 565-3170
  • Barbara Mikulski (MD) – (410) 962-4510
  • Ben Cardin (MD) – (410) 962-4436
  • Susan Collins (ME) – (207) 780-3575
  • Olympia Snowe (ME) – (800) 432-1599
  • Carl Levin (MI) – (313) 226-6020
  • Debbie Stabenow (MI) – (616) 975-0052
  • Al Franken (MN) – (651) 221-1016
  • Amy Klobuchar (MN) – (1-888) 224-9043
  • Claire McCaskill (MO) – (314) 918-8100
  • Roy Blunt (MO) – (816) 471-7141
  • Thad Cochran (MS) – (601) 965-4459
  • Roger Wicker (MS) – (601) 965-4644
  • Jon Tester (MT) – (406) 252-0550
  • Max Baucus (MT) – (406) 449-5480
  • Richard Burr (NC) – (800) 685-8916
  • Kay Hagan (NC) – (704) 334-2448
  • John Hoeven (ND) (701) 250-4618
  • Kent Conrad (ND) – (701) 852-0703
  • Mike Johanns (NE) (402)-758-8981
  • Ben Nelson (NE) – (402) 391-3411
  • Kelly Ayotte (NH) – (603) 622-7979
  • Jeanne Shaheen (NH) – (603) 647-7500
  • Frank Lautenberg (NJ) – (973) 639-8700
  • Robert Menendez (NJ) – (973) 645-3030
  • Jeff Bingaman (NM) – (505) 346-6601
  • Tom Udall (NM) – (505) 988-6511
  • Harry Reid (NV) – (702) 388-5020
  • Dean Heller (NV) – (702) 388-6605
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) – (212) 688-6262
  • Chuck Schumer (NY) – (212) 486-4430
  • Rob Portman (OH) – (614) 469-6774
  • Sherrod Brown (OH) – (614) 469-2083
  • Tom Coburn (OK) – (405) 231-4941
  • James Inhofe (OK) – (405) 608-4381
  • Jeff Merkley (OR) – (503) 326-3386
  • Pat Toomey (PA) – (610) 434-1444
  • Robert Casey (PA) – (215) 405-9660
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) – (401) 453-5294
  • Jack Reed (RI) (401) 528-5200
  • Jim DeMint (SC) (843) 727-4525
  • Lindsey Graham (SC) (864) 250-1417
  • Tim Johnson (SD) (605) 332-8896
  • John Thune (SD) – (605) 334-9596
  • Lamar Alexander (TN) – (901) 544-4224
  • Bob Corker (TN) – (202) 224-3344
  • John Cornyn (TX) – (972) 239-1310
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) – (214) 361-3500
  • Mike Lee (UT) – (801) 524-5933
  • Orrin Hatch (UT) – (801) 524-4380
  • Mark Warner (VA) – (804) 775-2314
  • Jim Webb (VA) – (804) 771-2221
  • Pat Leahy (VT) – (802) 863-2525
  • Bernie Sanders (VT) – (802) 862-0697
  • Maria Cantwell (WA) – (206) 220-6400
  • Patty Murray (WA) – (206) 553-5545
  • Ron Johnson (WI) – (414) 276-7282
  • Herb Kohl (WI) – (414) 297-4451
  • John Rockefeller (WV) – (304) 347-5372
  • Joe Manchin (WV) – (304) 342-5855
  • John Barrasso (WY) – (307) 261-6413
  • Michael Enzi (WY) – (307) 772-2477

This is all certainly a good start. For the IDL’s plan to really work effectively, however, it seems to me that it will have to better define what exactly their code will do before the vast number of sites that are needed for the plan to work will sign up. That said, such a “Bat-Signal” is quite obviously the next step in online activism — we are all connected by the Internet, after all; why not use that connectivity to fight these battles? At the moment, the only people doing anything similar are Anonymous-branded hacktivists, who are excellent at acting in concert to carry out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks as a form of protest. DDoS will not, of course, win over anyone in Congress. So a less controversial strategy needs to be employed.

I, for one, am extremely curious to see what IDL comes up with. Those of you interested can sign up with the IDL here.