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The Internet Defense League is an Internet watchdog organization and a website launched in March 2012 with the mission to educate the public and organize online protests against upcoming anti-piracy legislations. Co-created by the nonprofit group Fight for the Future and founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian, the project was inspired by the success of anti-SOPA and PIPA protests that took place in January 2012.
The site domain InternetDefenseLeague.org was registered on March 9th, 2012, but the league’s website wasn’t officially launched until months later in May. In the following month, the league began recruiting its early members, which included many high-profile companies and organizations that took part during the Internet Blackout against SOPA and PIPA in January, such as Mozilla, Wordpress, Reddit, Cheezburger, Imgur and FARK, as well as Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge among others.
The league formally announced its inception on July 19th, 2012 with launch parties and maiden projections of the “Cat Signal” in several cities across the world, from San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York City in the U.S. to London in the United Kingdom and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.
Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism
According to CNN’s article one of the co-founders Tiffiniy Cheng, the group chose a cat as its public face for the obvious reason of its mass appeal, but also in the spirit of the Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism that was introduced by American media scholar Ethan Zuckerman in 2008.
Utilization of Media-Sharing Platforms for Cat Photos vs. Social Movement
The theory posited that social and political movements could be best served through popular online platforms with low-value purposes--such as surfing for pornography or sharing pictures of LOLcats--rather than platforms that are solely designed for social activism, since disrupting the service of popular public platforms would result in far greater implications and consequences for democratic governments.
According to its co-founders at Fight for the Future and Reddit, the league would serve as an umbrella organization to mobilize thousands of websites in a short period time if another anti-piracy bill was suddenly put in motion by the U.S. legislators.
In addition to its e-mailing list and an automated notification system that can be embedded into any website, the group also plans to use a cat signal--an outdoor lighting fixture modeled after the Bat Signal--as an indicator of any impending threat against free Internet.
According to Alexa, InternetDefenseLeague.org is currently ranked at 40,237th in the U.S. and 101,902nd in global traffic. The site experienced its first surge of traffic in June after the launch of the site and the second wave of traffic came in mid-July with the launch parties.
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