Web activists take aim at NSA surveillance program

A group of Massachusetts Web activists are helping to organize protests against the National Security Agency surveillance program that will take place over the Internet and in cities across the country on the Fourth of July.

The group known as Fight for the Future was instrumental in rallying tech companies and social media sites in protests last year that helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, a congressional bill that would have given the government new powers to regulate the Internet.

The online protests planned for Thursday are meant to rally support against NSA surveillance activities that have been revealed in leaked government documents. It is expected to be the group’s largest online protest since its actions against the piracy bill.

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Thousands of websites, tech companies, and organizations, including popular sites such as reddit, WordPress, and Mozilla, plan to participate in the virtual rally by displaying messages denouncing the NSA actions, which according to the government documents involves the agency’s broad collection of data from Americans’ phone calls, e-mails, and social media posts.

“The NSA programs that have been exposed are blatantly unconstitutional, and have a detrimental effect on free speech and freedom of press worldwide,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future.

During last year’s online protests against the piracy bill, organizations such as Wikipedia and the popular culture site BoingBoing blacked out websites. Organizers of Thursday’s online protest don’t expect anything as dramatic as that, but Cheng said more online protests are expected in the coming weeks.

Since former government contractor Edward Snowden began leaking the secret documents, more than 500,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that Congress investigate the NSA.