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Reddit co-founder urges tech leaders to fight CISPA

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is a fierce advocate for an open Internet.
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is a fierce advocate for an open Internet.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is calling on tech leaders to help defeat CISPA
  • CISPA bill would allow government and private sector to share info about cyberattack threats
  • House passed the CISPA bill last week by a vote of 288 to 127; Senate is up next
  • New video shows Ohanian trying to call Google CEO Larry Page to ask his help

(CNN) -- The co-founder of the popular social news site Reddit has called on the leaders of Google, Facebook and Twitter to help defeat a controversial cybersecurity bill that would compromise the privacy of their users if passed by lawmakers.

"I'm hoping that all of these tech companies take the stand that their privacy policies matter, their users' privacy matters, and no legislation like CISPA should take that away," Alexis Ohanian, former owner of Reddit (Wired's parent company Conde Nast currently owns Reddit), said in a video posted last week.

"If someone wants access to our private home or to our mail we would say, Well go get a warrant. Right? CISPA basically says, uh, not necessary. Your digital privacy is irrelevant."

The video shows Ohanian trying to call Google CEO Larry Page to urge him to oppose the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). But when he reaches the company — through the switchboard — the operator tells him that no one by that name works at Google.

"I am pretty sure there's a Larry Page at Google," he replies.

Ohanian, who is on the steering committee for the Internet Defense League and is very active in the fight to preserve internet freedom, also called on the public to sign a petition to defeat CISPA in the way users helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Propert Act in 2011.

"Since we couldn't get in touch with the deciders, maybe you can," he says. "Sign the petition, get on social media, because this is what defeated SOPA and PIPA and this is what will defeat CISPA and this is what will defeat whatever they throw at us. Internet freedom, Internet privacy matters."

The bill opens the way for government agencies and the private sector to share information about cyberattack threats, but critics say it lacks protections to preserve the privacy of users and gives companies immunity for repercussions that might come as a result of sharing information.

The White House announced this week that President Obama planned to veto the bill if passed without protections that would force companies to anonymize and minimize data they provide the government and other companies.

In a statement the White House said it remained "concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities. Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable—and not granted immunity—for failing to safeguard personal information adequately."

Despite Ohanian's plea and the White House veto threat, the House passed the CISPA bill on Thursday by a vote of 288 to 127. A companion bill is planned for the Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union said today, following the passage of CISPA in the House, that it will continue working to correct the problems with CISPA.

"CISPA is an extreme proposal that allows companies that hold our very sensitive information to share it with any company or government entity they choose, even directly with military agencies like the NSA, without first stripping out personally identifiable information," Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement.

"We will work with Congress to make sure that the next version of information sharing legislation unequivocally resolves this issue, as well as tightens immunity provisions and protects personal information. Cybersecurity can be done without sacrificing Americans' privacy online."

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Copyright 2011 Wired.com.

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