Online campaign platform Causes joins anti-surveillance protest: The wait for other websites continues

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on February 7, 2014

From The News Desk

Next week commences a massive online mission to combat widespread national surveillance, dubbed The Day We Fight Back. Announced last month, the movement aims to "push back against power that seek to observe, college, and analyze our every digital action." This protest is in response to the numerous revelations about the NSA's far-reaching civilian spying tactics over the past year, some of which involve the surreptitious infiltration of tech giants' data centers. With this in mind, on February 11, the organizers are working to mobilize as many Web users and websites to put pressure on lawmakers to make necessary changes to mitigate future US surveillance tactics.

According to the website, 4,494 websites have signed up thus far. These include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reddit, CloudFlare, Mozilla, and the ACLU. Today, the online campaigning platform has joined the list, hoping to get the word out.

Causes wrote in a blog post today, "we believe mass surveillance of communications and government collection of metadata significantly threatens our members fundamental right to privacy."

From there the company urged people to take part in a variety of forms. They could join the formal campaign on the Causes platform, tweet about the protest, and post on other social media.

According to Causes CEO Matt Mahan, the company has never before taken a formal political stance. "As a technology company that leverages personal information to enhance the tools we build for our users," he wrote to me in an email. "We feel strongly that we must do everything in our power to ensure that third parties — even the U.S. Government — are not in a position to abuse the sacred trust our users have given us."

While the call for action is somewhat nebulous in theory, one would hope pretty obvious to the common American -- yes, a free country shouldn't be mass surveilled -- the day of action, February 11, centers around the eve of a Senate Committee hearing to discuss FISA reforms amendments made to a telephone records program. The organizers see this hearing as a way to begin necessary reforms to massively scale back the government's surveillance program.

David Segal, the executive director of Demand Progress, wrote on Reddit what he sees as the formal goals:

We're pushing for the passive of the USA Freedom Act and additional measures to protect non-Americans. And making damn certain that the so-called "FISA Improvements Act" which is being pushed [by] the leaders of the Intelligence Committees and would, for the first time, actually CODIFY the phone records collection and other unconstitutional spying programs, never passes.
This kind of call for action is similar to the anti-SOPA protests that occurred well over a year ago. What that protest had, however, which The Day We Fight Back lacks, is a lengthy list of important non-partisan websites, including Tumblr, WordPress, and Wikipedia. Perhaps most interestingly is the fact that Wikipedia has yet to formally announce support for this day of action.

The organizers wrote an open letter to the Wikipedia community asking for support. The letter formally asked the site to take part, saying "the project and its crucial mission are threatened by the mass surveillance we now face, and because Wikipedia's participation can have a meaningful impact." Thus far no formal response has been made.

While the success of next week's call to action is yet to be known, participation from bigger sites would be without a doubt be a boon. The addition of Causes will hopefully help get the word out, but now we have less than a week to wait and see who else joins.