You were supposed to remember Tuesday, February 11.
It was billed as "the Day We Fight Back" against widespread NSA surveillance, and it was supposed to make popular discontent against violations of our civil liberties well-known across the country.
But while other online protests such as the ones against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) have worked, this one was a huge flop.
Why? Perhaps it's because most of the major sponsors barely participated.
The New York Times reported that Tumblr and Mozilla, both organizers, barely did anything at all and even failed to comply with the campaign's modest request to put a banner up on their homepages. Reddit added a single banner to its homepage which wasn't even noticed by many users. While civil liberties organizations put up a good old-fashioned stink, AOL, Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo basically paid lip service to stopping mass surveillance with a single, low-traffic website.
There are a couple reasons this one went awry. The protest was poorly publicized and ill-coordinated. Where previous protests had a single objective (defeat legislation) and clear methods by which to do so (black out websites), the Day We Fight Back urged participants to back one piece of legislation (the bipartisan USA Freedom Act) and oppose another (Sen. Dianne Feinstein's FISA Improvements Act, which would legalize surveillance). Another is that sharing memes is nowhere as effective as eliminating access to high-profile internet services altogether for an entire day. Because a majority of Americans either aren't concerned by or support NSA surveillance, participants might have been preaching to the choir. Finally, protesting NSA surveillance via social media is a questionable strategy.
The most likely reason behind the Day We Fight Back's collective thud is pretty damning. The defeat of SOPA and PIPA two years ago might have been thanks to massive tech corporations' desire to shut down laws that could damage their business model rather than individual citizens protesting online. Without their support, maybe, nothing gets done. When it comes to the NSA, they're happy to talk the talk, but not to walk the walk.
But the anti-surveillance movement isn't dead. Some 70,000 calls to reps were made, as well as 150,000 emails. And with the launch of Glenn Greenwald's new site, the Intercept, we can expect many more Snowden-style revelations to hit us in the future.
Correction: This article originally identified DuckDuckGo as a sponsor which failed to promote the protest on their web site based on an incorrect source. We have since removed the reference to their company.