Protests against secret NSA tactics to light up Web July 4

In support of activists protesting NSA's collection of data of U.S. residents, major Web services such as Reddit, 4chan, and Mozilla plan to post messages on their sites on the Fourth of July urging Americans to join their fight against unreasonable collection of such data.

The National Security Agency must get warrants from a secret court before requiring technology companies to release vast amounts of phone and Internet activity records. But the Internet Defense League wants Congress to amend laws governing government surveillance, bringing those proceedings into the public view so that warrant requests can be contested.  The coalition has called on Congress to create a special committee that would investigate the extent of domestic spying and recommend how the surveillance can be limited.

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The July 4 campaign is being called “Restore the Fourth.” That refers to the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires probable cause to undertake a search. Several websites will feature messages that ask visitors to join an email list, contact members of Congress and donate to “Restore the Fourth.” Some of the proceeds would be used to fund ads on TV and newspapers.

“The movement to Restore the Fourth is more about principle than the direct impact of spying on the average citizen,” the group says on its website. “It is about maintaining the Fourth Amendment, which America's forefathers carefully wrote for the express purpose of limiting the government's ability to violate the deserved privacy of its law-abiding constituents.”

The coalition launched Restore the Fourth in the wake of leaks by Edward Snowden about PRISM and other once-secret government operations.

The NSA program is the biggest target of these online activists since they successfully defeated an anti-piracy bill in January 2012. Google and Wikipedia joined in that fight, saying some provisions in the bill amounted to online censorship. It’s unclear if the activists can win this battle without the help of those industry leaders. So far, Restore the Fourth and affiliated groups have raised a few thousand dollars and logged half a million petition signers.

In a survey released Wednesday, the Pew Research Center said 6% of American adults who use the Web have visited Reddit. That jumps to 15% among males 18 to 29 years old.

Protests will be held offline too. In Los Angeles, a few hundred people are expected to gather at Pershing Square at 1 p.m. Thursday. The flagship rally in Washington could draw thousands of people.

Restore the Fourth says it's not affiliated with movements such as the Tea Party, Occupy or Anonymous.

Douglas MacArthur, a spokesman for the group, said on Reddit that not having such political ties could help the movement spread to a wider public. He added that the group hopes to create "a long-term infrastructure to take part in legal action, political lobbying, and the like. But first we need to promote the issue itself."


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