Skip to main content

Web Activists Claim Congressional Blackout

According to Web activist group Fight for the Future (FFTF), somewhere north of 14,000 edge providers (Web sites) are currently blocking access to their sites from congressional IP addresses to make a policy point.

That point is their opposition to renewal of Patriot Act data collection authorizations, which will sunset June 1 unless Congress can agree on either a straight renewal or a bipartisan bill, the USA Freedom Act, which would reduce (some say eliminate) indiscriminate bulk data collection, but which FFTF calls "fake" reform.

Congress is on a Memorial Day break, but the Senate is reconvening for a Sunday session (May 31)—the house has passed the USA Freedom Act—to debate whether to find some legislative way to renew at least some of the surveillance authorities, or let them expire.

Although it sounds like something that a net neutrality activist like FFTF would protest if it were coming from an ISP, the group, which organized the protest, says the protest is warranted because "No one wants to live in a world without privacy where they aren’t free to express themselves," said Tiffiniy Cheng, Fight for the Future co-founder.

"If an ISP had the guts to temporarily block the Internet for a day to protest an atrocity like NSA mass surveillance, we think that would be amazing," said FFTF co-founder Holmes Wilson. "I don’t think they would though," he added, saying many ISPs had themselves been complicit in mass spying, "having given government access to their records even though it was unconstitutional."

Participating sites are redirecting those congressional IP addresses to a protest site featuring pictures of Patriot Act opponents in various states of undress talking about feeling naked in the face of PATRIOT Act surveillance.

The White House supports USA Freedom, as do numerous members of both parties. But FFTF says Congress has made a mess that it needs to clean up.

In fact, the site directs its anger at Congress saying it was the one conducting the mass surveillance—illegally it argues.

B&C could not independently confirm the redirects, but Wilson supplied a list of 90 of the sites he said were participating, a total that had now grown to 14,164, he added. That list contained mostly names like and as well as various activist sites.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.