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Updated: February 11, 2014 23:45 IST

A tale of two Internet campaigns

Deepa Kurup
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Students of the GNU/Linux user groups participating in the anti-surveillance awareness campaign at the Oxford College of Engineering in Bangalore on Tuesday.
Students of the GNU/Linux user groups participating in the anti-surveillance awareness campaign at the Oxford College of Engineering in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Techies supported anti-surveillance campaign, companies backed internet safety

The Internet was the subject of two distinctly different global campaigns, both coinciding on Tuesday. While one is backed by rights groups, civil society organisations and advocates of software and Internet freedom in general, another is run and supported by major tech corporations with a view to creating awareness on being safe online.

Supported by over 5,000 websites globally, including biggies Reddit, Mozilla (makers of Firefox) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ‘Day We Fight Back’ campaign aimed at raising a voice against mass dragnet surveillance by the U.S. government. Despite being a largely U.S.-centric mass campaign attacking the National Security Agency’s spying activities worldwide, groups such as the Free Software Movement of Karnataka (FSMK) and Bangalore-based NGO Centre for Internet and Society have supported it.

On Tuesday, GNU/Linux user groups (known as glugs) in several colleges — coordinated by the FSMK — did classroom-to-classroom campaigns talking to students and creating awareness about surveillance. In some engineering colleges, such as the SJBIT, these glugs are even screening documentaries related to online privacy and mass surveillance over the week. Explaining why the FSMK decided to hold a campaign here, Sarath M.S. of the FSMK said: “While the call for action is directed towards lawmakers in U.S., this affects all of us. It has undermined the sovereignty of nations and privacy of individuals. Given this, it is important to build public opinion among the youth against these surveillance systems, and make them understand the political issues underlying products and services that they use regularly.”

Sunil Abraham of the CIS, an organisation that is listed on the campaign website (www.thedaywefightback.org) as a supporter, says that the global support comes from the fact that people have realised that the idea that the Internet is a democratic medium is not true anymore. “The aftermath of Snowden’s revelations have signalled the end of the Internet as we knew it. This is an attempt by civil society organisations to make a case for the web we want.

Safe Internet Day

Meanwhile, two big companies announced activities as part of the Safe Internet Day, an annual global campaign that promotes safer use of online tech. To mark the occasion, Microsoft Corp released results of the third annual Microsoft Safe Computing Index that found that 20 per cent Indians have been victims of online phishing attacks and 12 per cent have suffered identity theft.

Google India too launched the ‘Good to Know’ campaign on online safety. It announced a partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and the Voluntary Organisation in the Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) on this campaign.

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