Earlier this year, denizens of the cyber-arena defeated the government. On January 18th, in a substantial display of solidarity against perceived threats to Internet rights and freedom of speech, an online blackout was organized that ultimately defeated the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills. Initial sponsors in the House of Representatives retreated in droves, providing palpable evidence that the online-community is a powerful entity, capable of organizing and altering public policy; why then, is the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a real threat to online privacy, flying under the collective radar?
CISPA is a classic case in shadowy language and political posturing. Superficially, the bill appears fairly innocuous and even beneficial, allowing for accelerated government-to-corporation communication that circumvents legal red-tape should any potential online threats arise. In an age where cyber-terror organizations such as Anonymous are running rampant, this is completely understandable; businesses have to remain vigilant. But with vague amendments that expand the scope (and legal-reach) of the bill to allow the government to access your personal information ‘to protect national security,’ you begin to see where the waters get murkier.
With SOPA and PIPA, the online-response was swift and commanding. #STOPSOPA began trending worldwide on a variety of social media outlets, Internet stalwarts such as Wikipedia and Reddit enacted self-imposed 24 hour blackouts in protest and within hours the bill’s supporters abandoned ship like it had burst into flames. CISPA has received a fraction of the attention as the two previous bills, when the semantics suggest a broader impact on personal privacy and liberties.
From my viewpoint, the lack of response and outrage boils down to a narrow online-attention span and absence of a perceived cause. With the SOPA and PIPA protests, there was a tangible element; there were no ICanHazCheezburger posts that day and college dorm residents were unable track down slightly deficient mini-fridges on Craigslist. The prearranged blackout brought attention to the negative aspects of these bills and the inherent infringement on online-rights; in regards to CISPA, no online organization has taken the reins to lead the charge.
The legalese and political tight-rope-walking jargon contained within CISPA draw distinct parallels to The Patriot Act; where it boils down to selective-interpretation and subjective opinion. There is too much at stake, and the budding implications on individual freedom and global economics are far too great to risk. The trends of the Internet are ever-evolving; and in my opinion, #STOPCISPA should be one of them.
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