Fight for the Future Overview ‧ read
But fightfortheftr, as its name is sometimes styled, isn’t all bark and no bite. The organization gets things done. The group’s internet blackout campaign, which was the biggest online protest ever, proved instrumental in the defeat of two Congress bills targeting internet privacy and freedom.
If you’re going to get involved with online activism, check out Fight for the Future. Here’s our profile with everything you need to know.
The fight for a free internet began in 2011
Fight for the Future’s goal is to “build tech-enhanced campaigns that resonate with millions of people, enabling them to consolidate their power and win historic changes thought to be impossible.” It’s a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts, USA.
Mobilizing the internet with cat signals
FFTF has since spawned many internet-defense initiatives. The Internet Defense League vowed to mobilize internet users against online censorship, launching with a (very cute) Batman-inspired cat signal in 2012. The Fight for the Future Education Fund aims to educate people on how they can use technology to defend their rights.
Who’s fighting for the future of the internet?
As a nonprofit, FFTF relies on donations from individuals and companies to stay running. Its financial supporters include the Consumer Electronics Association, DuckDuckGo, Credo, and ExpressVPN.
An internet blackout on censorship
FFTF first made waves in 2012 when it rallied websites and internet users to protest against two dangerous U.S. Congress bills threatening freedom of speech on the internet: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
To fight the bills, Fight for the Future organized an internet blackout, which took place on January 18, 2012. It was the biggest online protest in history. Ten million people signed the petition and over eight million of them attempted to phone Congress. For the blackout itself, more than 115,000 websites blocked their content to simulate an internet damaged by censorship. Many of the world’s biggest websites took part, including Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit. As a result, almost a billion people were blocked on the internet for the day.
The campaign was a success. Neither SOPA or PIPA was passed into law.
Pressing the “reset” button on privacy: #ResetTheNet
The NSA is “twisting the internet we love into something it was never meant to be,” said FFTF’s Reset the Net campaign. “We can't stop targeted attacks, but we *can* stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday internet.”
The campaign involved thousands of websites, people, and apps. The aim was to change the way people used the internet by issuing a Privacy Pack of proven security tools. Then, on June 5, 2014, everyone would “reset the net” by using these tools to make their internet more secure—and a new era of online privacy would begin.
Reset the Net was championed by Google, Reddit, Twitter, and other big sites. The Privacy Pack, created with the assistance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), remains a valuable resource to this day.
The internet slowdown to protect net neutrality
In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protects net neutrality with a law called the Communications Act, which demands that ISPs transmit all websites at the same speed.
But in 2012, big American ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon tried to change the law so they could introduce internet “slow lanes” for internet subscribers unwilling to pay fees for faster speeds.
Fight for the Future retaliated with the Internet Slowdown, another mass protest that showed what the internet would be like without net neutrality. More than two million people took action on September 10, 2014. Websites such as Netflix, Etsy, Kickstarter, and Urban Dictionary participated by displaying alerts with the “loading” symbol (aka the “spinning wheel of death”) to symbolize using the internet in a “slow lane.” These alerts encouraged users to contact the FCC, Congress, and the White House.
It worked. As of 2016, net neutrality is still safe.
The battle rocks on
Fight for the Future’s high-profile campaigns are just the tip of the iceberg. The organization has done an incredible amount of work to protect the internet in recent years.
Without free speech online, many important voices would be silenced. We’d have a lot less fun on the internet, too.
Hopefully, the closest we’ll ever come to a censored internet is one of Fight for the Future’s viral blackout protests.