All those cannibals out there who have been occupying newsfeeds and haunting the nightmares of the phagophobic are terrifying, sure, but nothing chills the bones greater than a good old fashioned Orwellian hellscape. Zombie-types, while revolting and steadfast in their heinous atrocities can eventually be subdued by the authorities, but what about when the authorities are the ones eating the face of our human rights, in that glorious, glowing frontier of the Internet?
I’m talking about CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. It’s purpose, as defined by the government: “To provide for the sharing of certain cyber threat intelligence and cyber threat information between the intelligence community and cybersecurity entities, and for other purposes.” This ambiguously-worded bill, which is designed to protect against online terrorism, effectively prescribes how Internet service providers are meant to share things they interpret as national threats with the government. What’s more, the bill would require ISPs to reveal any of their customers’ personal data upon request from the Feds, which previously required a court order.
All this spooky law speak points to something more predictably sinister than any brain-eating zombie: that, if the White House approves CISPA, Big Brother’s gaze will be sharper than ever. And given that Howard A. Schmidt, the White House official who publicly condemned CISPA, has suddenly stepped down as Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, things are looking bleak.
Bleaker still is that unlike its equally nefarious precursor, SOPA, which encountered remarkable protest against, many people don’t know what the hell CISPA is. Concerned, I took to New York City’s Union Square last week, when the Internet’s favorite presidential candidate Vermin Supreme was holding a rally, to explain the bill to those who’d never heard of it and get their reactions.
Do you have a Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter?
Ed: Yeah I have a Facebook and a Tumblr
Brittany: I have a Twitter but don’t really have a Facebook.
Ed: I’ve actually never even seen a tweet, my grandfather had to explain to me what Twitter was.
Have you guys heard of SOPA?
Ed: Oh is that the Internet bill?
Yeah. What did you think about it?
My personal opinion is that there shouldn’t be any restrictions on Internet freedoms, and certainly the government shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
Brittany: Yeah I agree with that.
Do you know what CISPA is?
Ed: I’m guessing it’s another Internet-related bill.
Brittany: I have no idea. Absolutely not.
It allows Internet service providers to share your information with the government without a court order. What do you think about it?
Ed: I don’t like it at all, that seems like a huge invasion of my privacy. I don’t think anything I have to say would change the government’s opinion though, but I would like something to be done for it.
Brittany: Yeah, it sounds really shitty.
Hey Mr. Supreme, what do you think about CISPA?
Vermin: As an Internet meme, I am very vehemently opposed to CISPA. A lot of my links have become dead links and I am against any form of Internet censorship.
What are you doing over here in Union Square?
Felix: Well, I’ve supported the Vermin Supreme movement from the beginning, I’ve been to all the rallies. Ever since then, it’s been intensifying and getting more crazy, it’s the closest I’ve been to war. Hundreds of cops came from everywhere just attacking people, it was like pandemonium.
Do you have any social media accounts?
Felix: Facebook, unfortunately.
What do you know about SOPA?
Felix: I actually don’t know that much because I’m currently living on a sanctuary in a commune and we get very little Internet access, but I do know it has something to do with the Internet.
There was more public outrage over SOPA than with the new bill, CISPA. What do you have to say about these two bills?
Felix: I have to say that it cannot be more obvious how much power Wall Street can have over the government and how much money influences the decisions of the government. How sad it is how intoxicating this power of money can be.
So you think the banks controlled the production of these two bills?
Felix: Yes, because it’s in the interests of these businesses to keep the Internet stable because they are drug dealers. They’re money pushers, they milk the money from us and they push it to the government. It doesn’t matter to them if it hurts the small people.
If you could send a message to Barack Obama about CISPA, what would you tell him?
Felix: I would ask him to think of his own demons before he makes it harder for all of us to live.
Did you see any Internet opposition to SOPA in January?
Phillip: I believe I saw an anti-SOPA event on Facebook, and I asked about that and the other acronym bill, PIPA. They said it’s gonna take away our rights on the Internet.
Why do you think you haven’t seen any opposition to CISPA as opposed to SOPA and PIPA?
Phillip: Maybe the people are misinformed. I’m not sure. It sounds like a conspiracy to me.
What would you do if CISPA passes?
Phillip: I would probably close my Facebook account because this is insanity. Where in the constitution does it say the government can go through your email or phone, or any of your other private stuff? It’s crazy, there’s no excuse.
The excuse is to prevent cyber threats.
Phillip: That’s still not an excuse. We need a revolution, just like we occupied Wall Street, we should Occupy the Internet. We should take back our privacy and fight the corporations and government.
If I were President Obama, what would you say to me right now about CISPA?
Phillip: I would say, “are you crazy?” You’re more likely to die from a heart attack than cyber terrorism, so what’re you talking about?
How do you think the government should protect the Internet without invading our privacy?
Phillip: That’s a very very good question. It’s like a paradox. In order to protect our freedoms, they must be taken away. In the end, I think our rights should be protected and they should only invade privacy if there is actual proof that the person is a terrorist. You can’t just look at someone and say they’re a terrorist, ya know?
If you have anything else to say about it, go for it.
Phillip: I believe this is part of the New World Order. This is a violation of our rights and those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it over and over again. This is like Hitler and Stalin all over again. We let the government become over-powerful and take away all of our rights all over again.
What do you think about the fact that the government would be able to monitor all of your online interactions under CISPA?
Moyshe: I think at the end of the day, the government does that already. So they would basically just be making it more legal for themselves, and it doesn’t scare me too much since I live with the reality that the government feels the need to know everything and protect itself.
Do you have any social networking accounts?
Angela: Only an email account.
Why do you think all the companies who previously opposed SOPA are now actually supporting CISPA?
Angela: It probably has something to do with money, maybe they got paid off or something.
What do you have to say to Congress about it?
Angela: God, there’s so many rude things I could say. But basically, just to keep our freedom. Most people don’t want to be a part of that whole control system so they should just leave us be.
Do you think CISPA has any advantages?
Angela: No, not at all. The more control the government tries to have over people, the worse people get.