Online Activists Staging Government-Surveillance Protest
BY Eric Markowitz
Virtual activists on Reddit are planning a global July 4 protest in the form of dozens of rallies--in real life--that aims to end online government surveillance.
For the last several days, Reddit activists have been meeting virtually, planning a large-scale protest of government surveillance that is set take place on July 4. The activist group, which is being called "Restore the Fourth," already has more than 12,000 members, who have rallies planned in 68 cities, and the support of at least one major U.S. politician.
"The primary objective of this protest and the larger movement will be the immediate end of indiscrimanant [sic] government surveillance of the American people," the creators write in a press release drafted late Tuesday evening. They continue:
On Independence Day, we will be holding a series of rallies worldwide. The purpose of these rallies will be to demonstrate to the world that the will of the people is that the United States Constitution remains a living, breathing document. An emphasis will be placed on the restoration of the fourth amendment in response to the NSA PRISM Program and all warrantless search and seizure of physical and electronic communications. Our intent is that these demonstrations will be in cooperation with local law enforcement.
So, who is exactly is this group being led by? According to the moderators of the group's official subreddit, Restore the Fourth is:
a non partisan group of concerned citizens dedicated to restoring our fourth amendment rights. We come from all across the political spectrum, but what we all have in common is this: The right to be secure in our persons against unlawful search and seizures is a basic human right; a right that has been violated severely by our current government.
They're formalizing, too. There's a video in the works, and they've even gotten recognition from Gary Johnson, the 2012 Libertarian candidate for president.
So far, it's been pretty remarkable to watch how the group has formalized online. They've held several virtual town hall-style meetings, and published the chat logs for all to see.
If this protest happens--and it likely will (to some extent, at least)--it will mark a significant turning point for the Reddit community, a community that's fiercely vocal online about a variety of privacy-related issues, but whose physical presence--in terms of rallies and protests--has been somewhat limited.
It also brings up an interesting analogy. If Facebook and Twitter helped organize the backbone behind the Arab Spring, it's worth asking: Can Reddit become the impetus behind a large-scale--and real-life--Internet privacy movement?