CISPA co-author: 'Anonymous threatened us'

Photo credit: Rob Kints/
Photo credit: Rob Kints/

No confirmation or denial has come from the hacking collective, but Ruppersberger told the Hill that Anonymous encouraged anti-CISPA activists to attack CISPA supporters and also threatened cyber-attack action of its own: "Anonymous was threatening us. Anonymous was telling [others] to shut down people who supported the bill and that kind of thing," Ruppersberger said.

He asked his compatriots in the House to wait before weighing in on the issue until the last minute, to avoid backlash. Indeed, up until three days before CISPA went up for a vote in the House of Representatives, it had just two co-sponsors. Then, that number jumped to 36.

"I didn't want to put anybody who was going to support the bill ... to be subjected to those attacks in their districts, and calling and threatening and that type of thing, so we really decided to not get anybody on the bill right away and to educate people right to the end," Ruppersberger said.

CISPA passed in the House in April but was dealt what was likely a killing blow over the weekend, when Senate lawmakers said that they probably won’t consider it. CISPA has been highly controversial, drawing a veto threat from the White House over privacy concerns. It is primarily an information-sharing initiative, which would make it easier for private corporations and government entities to share information on threats, attacks and remedies in order to shore up defenses. However, at issue is the scope of the roles that the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would have, and how personal information will be used and protected – it also includes legal immunity for corporations incurring any issues stemming from sharing citizens’ personal information.

The bill has been the subject of widespread antagonism. Aside from ongoing discussion by consumer rights advocates, in March, a coalition of internet advocacy organizations and web companies (including Craigslist and Reddit) launched “a week of action” to combat CISPA.

Participants aimed to get a grassroots swell of support going against the act, which they see as eviscerating online privacy protections. “Viewing CISPA as one of the greatest threats to internet users since SOPA, the coalition intends to leverage popular outrage to oppose the dangerously broad cybersecurity bill,” reads the online call to action from one of the leaders of the initiative, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

On April 22, Anonymous called for an internet blackout to protest the House vote – a protest during which 300+ sites did in fact go offline. The White House meanwhile threatened to veto it.

Last year, another version of CISPA died in the Senate amid Obama administration opposition after passing the House in a near-identical conversation. It was reintroduced in the House by Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Ruppersberger earlier in 2013.

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