On 'The Day We Fight Back,' Google and Thousands of Citizens Unite in Protest of NSA Tactics

Google, Microsoft, and thousands of other websites are united in protest of the NSA today, part of a large-scale effort known as "The Day We Fight Back." Their goal? To pressure congress into passing a bill reforming the online surveillance activities of the NSA, which have been under a sharp and withering spotlight following revelations of NSA practices unveiled by Edward Snowden last year. Some 6,000 websites are joined in the protest, which urges users to call or email their congresspeople and demand trenchant reforms.

The effort is reminiscent in style and activist fervor to the successful squashing of SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) in early 2012. It's certainly trying to marshal the same energy, though this time, as a proactive demonstration — rather than a reactive one.

The Day We Fight Back is calling for reforms to be introduced and passed into law to curtail powers already vested in the NSA.

Evan Greer, Campaign Manager at Fight For The Future, tells Bustle:

The massive response to today's protests should come as a warning to those in power. Dragnet style surveillance is a threat to democracy and freedom of speech, and the public has resoundingly rejected it. Fight for the Future has been leading the fight to defend the free and open Internet since the SOPA strike, we see this fight against NSA spying as a logical extension of that fight. Free speech cannot exist in a world where journalists, activists, and free thinkers are constantly looking over their shoulders and wondering if someone is watching. This isn't about whether you have something to hide, it's about whether you want to live in a democracy or an Orwellian nightmare.

Google holds an undeniably pivotal role in all this, both as the internet's most dominant company and the one with the most leverage to mobilize. On Tuesday morning, the company sent emails out to an unknown number of users imploring them to join the protest, signed by Google's policy manager Derek Slater. While its impossible to know exactly how aggressive the email campaign has been, Google is in a unique position to cull a big list of users likely sympathetic to the cause — they received 4.5 million petition signatures during the SOPA protests three years ago.

Some members of congress have already lined up behind the push to curtail the NSA's online powers, and as often happens on privacy and surveillance issues, there are instances of traditional left/right political coalitions faltering. As evidenced by Rep. Alan Grayson and Sen. Rand Paul — hardly well-aligned partisan figures.

In its most cynical interpretation, one could view the presence of Republican support for the anti-surveillance movement as a sort of partisan switch-flip — supportive of past restrictions to civil liberties like the Patriot Act, the sudden imperative to become anti-surveillance when President Obama is sitting at the top is an obvious one.

But cross-ideological coalitions can sometimes be the lifeblood of these sorts of activist pushes, just as we saw with SOPA. If you aren't convinced that such partnerships are possible, here's hyper-conservative Texas GOP Rep. Ted Poe writing in support of The Day We Fight Back, in the online pages of Fox News.

The Patriot Act permits targeted surveillance when that surveillance is justified by a court—it does not permit the intrusive activities brought to light by Snowden.

This old Soviet-style, dragnet approach — casting a wide net in hopes of catching a big fish — is not permitted under the law. It is also unconstitutional. It is similar to police searching homes in in an entire zip code looking for one outlaw.

With surprising allies like that, there's no telling how far this could go.

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You can call or email your congressperson to demand reform here.

Image: Getty Images