US House Passes CISPA

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 248-168. 

With 112 cosponsors and no major opposition from major U.S. corporations, it was likely that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would pass in the House of Representatives. In fact, the lines were so clearly drawn before the final vote that a congressional staffer correctly estimated to us that CISPA would pass by about a 250-180 margin.

“I know it is 2012, but it sure feels like 1984 in this House today. If you value liberty, privacy and the Constitution, then you will vote no on CISPA.”
– Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga)

Over the course of this evening, the House of Representatives voted on amendments to CISPA, including a motion from the Democratic House minority that “would protect the privacy of Internet passwords by prohibiting employers and the Federal Government from requiring the disclosure of confidential passwords by an employee or job applicant. It would also protect freedom of expression on the Internet by prohibiting the Federal Government from establishing a national firewall similar to the ‘Great Internet Firewall of China.'”

The amendment was voted down.

CISPA has enjoyed relative anonymity compared to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which sparked protests that effectively blacked out the Internet for a day earlier this year. While opposition from advocate groups like Demand Progress, Sum of Us and the Center for Democracy & Technology, among others, has been vocal, the lack of major corporations opposing CISPA is really what will let the bill slide through Congress. No major technology corporations have stepped up against CISPA the way Facebook, Reddit and Wikipedia (among hundreds of other companies and websites) did against SOPA. Because of the lack of business opposition, CISPA has been a much lower-profile bill and members of Congress have not faced grassroots pressure to vote against it.

Passage of the bill depended on Republicans pulling a couple of Democrats to their side. In the end, 42 Democrats voted for CISPA.

“Congress needs to wake up and respect Americans’ growing concern about increased corporate and government control of the Internet. We applaud President Obama’s veto threat, and urge members of the House to oppose CISPA, even while supporting amendments that would provide greater privacy protections,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress. “The Internet is ever more important to the functioning of our society, and more and more Americans are prepared to vote against politicians who interfere with Internet freedom.”

Speaking on the house floor, one Congressman likened CISPA to the book “1984.” Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga) said, “I know it is 2012, but it sure feels like 1984 in this House today. If you value liberty, privacy and the Constitution, then you will vote no on CISPA.”

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