Thousands of Internet companies strike back against “Fast Track”
More than 7,000 websites join rapid-response “Internet Vote” to protest Trade Promotion Authority legislation that threatens online free speech
Less than a week after Congress introduced Fast Track / Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, thousands of websites and tens of thousands of Internet users have united against it, citing the rampant lack of transparency and accountability in the trade negotiations process, as well as dangerous provisions in agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that undermine freedom of speech on the Web.
More than 7,000 websites and tech companies joined an emergency action on Thursday including well known services like MediaFire, DreamHost, Internet Archive, Private Internet Access, and DailyKos. As the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the proposed legislation, phones in Washington, DC were ringing with the voices of constituents opposing TPA and the TPP. Websites participated by displaying an “Internet Vote” message on their sites that directs users to https://battleforthenet.com/internetvote or by encouraging their users to take action through social media.
Thousands of Internet users also participated by speaking out on social media, with the #InternetVote hashtag being used more than 19,000 times since the Fast Track bills were introduced.
The Internet Vote is being organized by Fight for the Future, a small but mighty digital rights nonprofit best known for its role organizing the massive SOPA protests and the Internet Slowdown, that shifted the tide of the net neutrality fight.
“It’s inspiring to see thousands of websites and tens of thousands of Internet users coming together so quickly to condemn this outdated and dangerous TPA legislation,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “Senators Wyden and Hatch must have thought that their bill had some magical powers, or that the Internet was sleeping. They should know by now that any law that threatens Internet users’ rights to communicate, share, learn, and express themselves will be defeated, and the politicians who attach their names to these toxic policies will pay the price at the polls.”
“The Internet is showing that secretive vehicles for deciding policy for billions of people will get interrupted and stopped until they become a thing of the past,” added Fight for the Future’s co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng, “It used to be ok to have a broken system with a manipulative process that only serve a few, but in the age of the Internet, that’s obviously no longer ok. When people can participate in systems that work and have the means to demand an open, transparent and reasonable process, they come to expect it in our politics too. That’s going to be the future, so politicians may as well get used to it now.”
“This Trade Promotion Authority bill is a disaster for the Internet, for government transparency, and for our democracy,” said David Segal, executive director of the Internet advocacy group Demand Progress, who also supported the Internet Vote effort, “The Internet is simply too important to our economy and to our basic rights for decisions that affect it to be made in secret by lobbyists and bureaucrats. The public deserves a voice. Today, the public is demanding a voice.”
Last week, three anonymous artists put up a statue of Edward Snowden in a public park in Brooklyn. They crafted this bronze bust as ‘a gift to the city’, a memorial meant to spark conversations about issues central to our freedom.
Within hours, it was confiscated and turned over to the NYPD. 
But this morning, free speech advocates in NYC held a press conference to demand the confiscated Snowden bust be returned to the artists.
A local gallery has already agreed to exhibit the work while the artists submit an application to legally install the sculpture through the New York City Parks Department. In other words, New York could soon have a permanent monument to the whistleblower who challenged NSA surveillance. But first we need to free the statue!
Snowden may still be in exile for exposing the NSA’s crimes, but we can honor his efforts to hold the US government accountable by making sure this artwork gets released. Sign the petition now, and share it widely!
Thanks for all that you do,
-Susan, Evan, Holmes, Tiffiniy, Jessica, Vasjen, Charlie and Jeff Fight for the Future
P.S. Want to make sure the NYPD hears you? Click here to tweet at the NYPD Commissioner or call the Commissioner’s direct line for public interest inquiries: (646) 610-6700.
If you feel like every week there’s is always another looming threat to the future of free speech on the Internet, it’s because there is.
The root of the problem is that too many decisions that impact Internet freedom are made by government bureaucrats and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors and without public input.
Right now, U.S. Congress is planning to pass a “Fast Track” bill that will make this situation even worse by ramming through secret agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that could lead to more censorship and less privacy online. We think Internet users should have a voice anytime there’s a major decision that impacts our rights.
The TPP has pieces of every bad Internet policy we’ve ever fought against, and if it passes now we’ll be kicking ourselves for decades, fighting uphill battle after uphill battle on copyright reform, whistleblower protections, and so much more. Let’s not let that happen.
Yours for Team Internet, -Evan at FFTF
P.S. Senator Ron Wyden continues to be a key figure in backroom negotiations about “Fast Track.” Please take three seconds to tweet at him today or call his office: (202) 224-5244.
UPDATE: After we posted the statement below on reddit, the FCC corrected Ajit Pai’s statement to remove the false claim that Fight for the Future is a “government funded” group.
During FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s dissent against the new net neutrality rules, he presented false and misleading information about the support for net neutrality. He characterized one of the leading net neutrality advocacy groups as a government-funded group – even though we’ve never received a dollar from the government.
Full disclosure: I’m Jessica Bruno, and I keep the books for Fight for the Future. We’re a pro-net neutrality group responsible for driving 777,364 pro-net neutrality comments to the FCC through the Battle for the Net campaign.
In his official, written testimony opposing net neutrality, Commissioner Pai called Fight for the Future a “government-funded group,” citing our 990 tax form as proof. But that form doesn’t mean we take government money. If you look at page 9, right next to where it says, “Government grants (contributions),” there’s a blank space indicating that we received $0 from the government.
The reason we filed a 990 is to be transparent about where we get our funding from. Most of it comes from small grants or donations from our 1.2 million members who overwhelmingly support net neutrality and donated to us to help make sure we could fight to protect it.