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Internet Freedom Fighters, Against TPP, Turn Spotlight on Key Lawmaker

'Wyden needs to know that the internet is depending on him, and where he stands on this issue will decide whether he is remembered as a hero or a traitor.'

The banner dangling from the blimp features popular internet 'memes' like Grumpy Cat, and a reference to the massive online protests against SOPA, a bill that Senator Wyden opposed. (Photo: Tripp Jennings/Fight for the Future)

For years, open internet activists have warned of how global trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), negotiated in secret and with the interest of multinational corporations in mind, could restrict online freedom, innovation, and privacy.

"TPP raises significant concerns about citizens’ freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the internet's global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities," the Electronic Frontier Foundation has said. "In sum, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s citizens."

On Friday and Saturday, shining a spotlight on how so-called "free trade" deals could affect "the future of the internet"—and putting pressure on a key Democrat in the debate over the TPP—activists flew a 30-foot blimp over Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden's town hall meetings, declaring: "Ron Wyden: It’s up to you. Don’t betray us! Save the Internet. No Fast Track for the TPP."

Wyden is an obvious target for those who oppose the TPP and the Fast Track authority necessary to get the sweeping 12-nation agreement passed with limited congressional input.

As ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, where the Senate bill will be introduced, Wyden has a significant amount of influence over the outcome of Fast Track.

"The reason why we're making a lot of noise is because he holds an incredible amount of leverage about the TPP," the EFF's Maira Sutton told The Oregonian.

In addition, Wyden has been a champion of the open internet in Congress, earning praise from groups like EFF and the Boston-based Fight for the Future, which organized Friday and Saturday's actions in Oregon. Such organizations have claimed that Fast Track authority could be used to ram through deals that "carry provisions threatening internet freedom and the digital rights of users without full Congressional input."

According to The Oregonian:

Wyden spokesman Keith Chu noted that Wyden has repeatedly said he'd oppose any trade provisions that impinge on the internet freedoms he's championed.

"He's been very clear that's something he can't support in a trade deal," Chu said.

It's as simple as this," Wyden said in a trade speech last April, "the Internet, which is really the shipping lane of the 21st century, has to be kept open and free.

"Senator Wyden has been a strong supporter of internet freedom issues during his entire career," said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer. "We are shocked that he is considering supporting anti-democratic Fast Track legislation that would allow the future of the internet to be decided behind closed doors."

Greer added: "We are flying this blimp across Oregon because Senator Wyden needs to know that the internet is depending on him, and where he stands on this issue will decide whether he is remembered as a hero or a traitor."

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