The may be the Super Friends of the Internet: A group of prominent web companies including Mozilla, maker of the Firefox Web browser, the social news website Reddit and the blogging service WordPress have teamed up with advocacy groups and lawmakers to form the Internet Defense League (IDL), a coalition dedicated to rallying Web users against government attempts to take over or destroy the world — the world wide web, that is. And they want your help, too.
“The League is about its members fighting for the interests of the Internet,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, a co-founder of nonprofit Web freedom advocacy group Fight For the Future, which is coordinating the formation of the Internet Defense League, in a phone interview with TPM.
“This is a new 21st century battle for some of the same old basic rights like free speech, freedom to assemble, and the League is here to fight and to win and to help Web users stay engaged,” Cheng added.
To those ends, the IDL is first setting up a new Web-based alert system to allow members to warn of new legislation that they think will harm the Internet’s functioning, and is hosting launch parties Thursday night in San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC, London and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
There’s a certain irony, perhaps deliberate, to the IDL’s prominent reliance on a major Hollywood tentpole film to bolster its message, as its many of its members — including Fight for the Future and Reddit — are vocally opposed to the attempts by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to get legislation passed to crack down on online piracy of movies like “The Dark Knight Rises.”
But Fight for the Future and the IDL may no longer be as opposed to each other’s advocacy work as they once were.
Asked if the MPAA or major Hollywood studios were invited to join the IDL, Cheng told TPM: “If they’re willing to play fair, then sure.”
At the same time, as the Internet has grown, it has seen more attempts by government officials, agencies and policymakers to regulate it and clamp down on its more freewheeling practices, such as file-sharing, which facilitate illegal activity. It’s these attempts that the IDL opposes.
Two such recent such instances of U.S. laws designed to crack down on online piracy specifically include the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), two bills that Congress was considering in late 2011 and early 2012. The MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America supported both bills.
Wyden, Issa and Polis were all among a small group of lawmakers that opposed the bills from their onset, but they were bitterly outnumbered for a while and the bills looked poised to pass.
SOPA and PIPA abruptly lost support in Congress and were scrapped after a massive online protest by Web users and websites on January 18, in which many sites voluntarily blacked- their homepages to show the censoring effect they argued the bills could have. That protest, known as “Blackout Day,” was spearheaded by Fight For the Future and its allies.
Now those groups have formed the IDL in an effort to create a more permanent, and slightly more organized, campaign in the advent that future bills pop-up.
Part of that effort includes a new alert system: An embed code, which is a few lines of HTML text that website owners can simply copy and paste onto their pages.