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Let slip the doges of war: Australian Senator calls for meme protest of data retention laws

An Australian Senator has a novel idea for fighting proposed mandatory data retention legislation, calling on Internet advocates to direct their protest at politicians in meme form.

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Scott Ludlam is calling for memes to protest data retention laws. Scott Ludlam

After new national security surveillance powers were ushered through Australian parliament this week, one Senator has called on the Internet to protest further national security reforms through mass meme power.

Senator Scott Ludlam has been an outspoken critic of the three tranches of anti-terrorism legislation that are currently making their way through the two houses of Australian parliament, backed by both major political parties.

The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 passed parliament this week, redefining the term "computer" to mean an entire network of devices and granting greater powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to monitor entire networks with a single warrant. The second tranche of legislation, known as the Foreign Fighters bill, is currently before parliament and proposes new no-knock warrant powers for police, while the third -- expected to be tabled in 2015 -- is expected to introduce a mandatory data retention policy for telecommunications providers and ISPs.

In an open letter published on independent news site Junkee, Senator Ludlam has called for denizens of the Internet to launch a large-scale protest of the national security legislation, pushing politicians -- particularly those in the country's opposition Labor Party -- to block the proposed laws.

"It is long past time we fought back against the invasion of our Internet by digital illiterates whose recklessness is only exceeded by their mediocrity," he said.

"We have until the week of October 27 to persuade [Australian Attorney General] George Brandis to crawl back under his paving slab and leave the Internet the hell alone. That means...finding 38 senate votes to block his bill."

To drive the change, Ludlam called on Internet users and digital privacy advocates to use the language they know best.

"Internet, we need help here," he said. "We need your creative, anarchic, no-f**ks-given spirit expressed in a thousand gifs, memes, blogues [sic] and vines; hell, even LinkedIn if you want. Help us get to 38 votes. For the next few weeks, #StopDataRetention needs to be ubiquitous, the equivalent of a Distributed Denial of Mediocrity attack targeted to wake the ALP [Australian Labor Party] out of their terrified stupor. We can do this.

"Gamers, I'm looking at you. Artists, musicians, hackers, geeks, this is your Internet. Defend it. If you can get your crazy meme on TV, into the paper or on to the streets, so much the better. It is time for a spell of sustained jimmy-rustling the likes of which we haven't seen since we killed the Internet filter."

As an added sweetener, Ludlam has promised a prize for the best meme -- with a personal touch.

"The creator of the most widely seen, most effective, unavoidably kick-ass meme will be flown at gargantuan expense to Parliament House Canberra, by me, and in the Parliament House dining room [sic] which will be weird but also kind of fun," he said. "That's how serious I am about this.

"Without your immediate intervention, I fear the politicians are about to screw our precious Internet sideways. Don't let them."