Comment of the Week: Fight CISPA with Paper and Pens

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a bill that has some serious potential to roll back Internet freedoms.

Like SOPA and PIPA before it, the bill has tech industry minds and privacy advocates very worried, and it seems likely the bill will make its way through the Senate as well. Although President Barack Obama has pledged to veto the bill, that’s not a reliable way to kill it, and who knows what political winds might shift between now and then.

Our Comment of Week comes in the wake of CISPA’s passage and Ross Lincoln’s article, “CISPA Passes the House — Is It Time for Gamers to Panic?” (which you should read if you’re unfamiliar with CISPA), where an enlightened post came from user JawaEsteban. The comment advocates fighting the bill the old-fashioned way: with pens, paper, stamps and polite but firm language. As JawaEsteban rightly points out, it’s easy to create online petitions and post angry updates to social networks, but those things don’t have nearly the resonance as a paper letter sent through the mail when it comes to reaching out to legislators.

“Write letters. The paper kind. The internet makes it so easy to create petitions and email campaigns that Congress pretty much ignores all electronic correspondence. However, it’s a rare congresscritter who’s not painfully aware that an individual willing to take the time to write a letter is an individual who cares enough about the issue to vote on it, and bring friends.

“As always, polite and intelligent wording is essential. If you sound like a high school dropout with a Twitter addiction, expect to be ignored. Harsh/violent language will also get your letter circular-filed immediately, and may result in a visit from a representative of your local FBI office who will take a very uncomfortable interest in your personal affairs.

“Paper, pens, and stamps, people. Let’s get on it.”

You can find all the information you need to contact your senator from the U.S. Senate’s web page here.

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3 Comments on Comment of the Week: Fight CISPA with Paper and Pens


On April 20, 2013 at 3:57 am

“With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.”


On April 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

JawaEsteban has a point. Letters eventually reach their destination, so even if some staffer is just piling them up and sending out generic responses, at least someone is aware of them. Plus, things on the internet can be brushed off by these politicians as the exact sort of thing they’re looking to censor.


On April 24, 2013 at 4:27 am

Phone calls work as well. You should do both, as a paper letter allows you to be considered and get everything worded exactly how you want it, while also allowing you to make copes (which you absolutely must). A hand-written one will be REALLY effective as long as your handwriting is coherent enough, otherwise typed is fine. A phone call could work as well though as it allows you to respond to their queries in real-time. The best solution would be to send a letter urging them to call you back if they want to discuss it with you as you’d like them to be able to put a voice to the words and vice versa.

The most important point, though, is to not ignore it and hope others sort it out. We’re in the majority on this one, yes, but there difference between a big majority that can’t be ignored, or a small majority or large minority that CAN be, is huge.