Online Activists Team Up To Create Internet 'Bat Signal'
May 27, 2012

Online Activists Team Up To Create Internet ‘Bat Signal’

The founder of the social news website Reddit and the online advocacy group Fight for the Future are teaming up to create a new warning and call-to-action system that will mobilize the computer community against Internet-unfriendly legislation.

According to Forbes Staff Writer Andy Greenberg, 29-year-old Alexis Ohanian and the organization co-founded by Tiffiny Cheng and Holmes Wilson have joined forces to establish what they are calling the Internet Defense League, which is set to officially launch next month.

"Any website owner can sign up on the group´s website to add a bit of code to his or her site -- or receive that code by email at the time of a certain campaign -- that can be triggered in the case of a political crisis like SOPA, adding an activist call-to-action to all the sites involved, such as a widget or banner asking users to sign petitions, call lawmakers, or boycott companies," Greenberg explained in a May 25 article.

The group's official website states that the goal is to build upon the online "blackout" that helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) legislation in the US and turn it into a "permanent force for defending the Internet“¦ Think of it like the internet's Emergency Broadcast System, or its bat signal!" They say that Internet freedom is "changing the course of history" and that "elected leaders often don't understand the Internet, so they're easily confused or corrupted."

When dangerous legislation is on the horizon, the leaders of the Internet Defense League will contact members and ask them to perform a specific action, such as contacting legislators. They say that they will be working with other organizations in order to "identify treats and opportunities." They also note that they are "definitely targeting ACTA in June and CISPA as it re-emerges in the Senate, and that they plan to eventually unveil code that will allow people to receive only certain types of alters and a "collaborative system for identifying threats and opportunities."

Andrew Couts of Digital Trends reported Friday that Reddit, Mozilla, Imgur, the Cheezburger Network, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge are among those who have already registered for the online defense network.

"People who wish to be tapped can see, oh look, the Bat-Signal is up. Time to do something,” Ohanian told Greenberg on Friday. "Whatever website you own, this is a way for you to be notified if something comes up and take some basic actions“¦ If we aggregate everyone that´s doing it, the numbers start exploding."

He also emphasized the idea that people should have lawmakers contact information on their cellphones, explaining to Forbes, "They´re like tech support, or customer service“¦ They work for us, and we should have their number in our phones and be able to call them when something is upsetting us. Why not? Even something as basic as that brings home a point that SOPA and PIPA proved: That still, in the face of everything else that´s screwed up in Washington, we the American people can fix things."