Web

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

Internet-Defense-League-badge

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.

Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Computing

Don't take your provider's word for it. Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.
Computing

Tired of paying a monthly fee for Word? The best Microsoft Office alternatives

Looking for a competent word processor that isn't Microsoft Word? Thankfully, the best alternatives to Microsoft Office offer robust features, expansive compatibility, and an all-too-familiar aesthetic. Here are our favorites.
Web

Google’s updated Santa Tracker entertains and teaches coding throughout December

Google's Santa Tracker is in its fifteenth year and is back again with even more features. You can have fun with more than 20 games, learn about different holiday traditions around the world, and enjoy some festive animations.
Computing

Microsoft is ‘handing even more of online life’ to Google, Mozilla CEO says

Not everyone is happy with Microsoft's switch to Google's Chromium engine. In a new blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard writes that he believes the move is "handing online life control" to Google.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Web

Google Translate updated to reduce gender bias in its translations

Google is changing how Google Translate offers translations. Previously when you entered a word like doctor, Translate would offer a masculine interpretation of the word. Now, Translate will offer both masculine and feminine versions.
Web

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.
Web

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?