If you’re displeased with the actions of your representatives in Congress, you typically have to wait until the next election to try to hold them accountable. But in light of the recent approval of Senate Joint Resolution 34, voters are fighting back in a more creative way.
The Resolution, which passed narrowly with only Republican votes in both the Senate and the House, repeals regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama in 2016 that said internet service providers had to ask for consumers’ permission before selling their personal information to third parties.
Customers’ “sensitive private information” includes browsing histories, precise geo-locations and even financial and medical data, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The Resolution becomes law once it’s signed by President Donald Trump.
The votes caused outrage among internet communities such as Reddit, and now some activists have announced plans to fight Republicans – by using the law Congress just passed.
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Adam McElhaney, a self-described privacy activist and net neutrality advocate from Chattanooga, Tennessee, established a Go Fund Me page to raise money to buy the internet histories of members of Congress. Once he has them, he says he plans to publish them online so anyone can search through them. He raised more than $160,000 within four days.
“Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy for just thousands of dollars from telephone and ISPs. Your private data will be bought and sold to marketing companies, law enforcement,” McElhaney wrote in the Go Fund Me. “Let’s turn the tables. Let’s buy THEIR history and make it available.”
He has already bought the domain, and used the first version of the website to host a poll on whose internet history should be targeted first. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was the winner, with 35 percent of about 67,000 votes. He was followed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who sponsored the Resolution in the House.
Verizon, Comcast and AT&T are among Blackburn’s top political donors, according to fundraising records from the Center for Responsive Politcs.
And McElhaney isn’t the only one looking to buy that information to retaliate against Congress. Max Temkin, co-creator of the popular card game Cards Against Humanity, is planning to do the same thing, though he advises against donating to Go Fund Me accounts making the same promises.
“First off – this bill hasn’t been signed, the data doesn’t exist, and nobody knows what they’re talking about. We don’t know if there will be any data to buy, how it will work, or what will be available,” Temkin wrote in a Reddit post explaining how the company plans to try to get Congress’ internet data. “This means you should be very skeptical of any GoFundMe projects to buy this data. They are making promises they can’t possibly keep.”
But Temkin’s real message wasn’t asking for money to accomplish publishing Congress’ internet history – it was encouraging those who were outraged to get off their computers and call their representatives.
“Even if we get this data, it’s a symbolic victory at best. Our basic human rights, like the right to privacy, are being sold to the highest bidder while the best minds of our generation are here on Reddit asking pro gamers if they want to fight a horse-sized duck or whatever,” Temkin wrote, referring to a bizarrely infamous but common question among Reddit users. “Real, material change requires sacrifice. You probably can’t do it on a computer. ... If 100 Redditors called a congressman, it would freak them out and their staff would have to do something about it. It really doesn’t take much.”