Project:Stop CISPA/Contact tips

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Project:Stop CISPA
Grassroots whip-counting on Internet censorship.
CISPA Senate whip count  · Senate contact log
Tips for contacting senators  · Participate

Below are tips on how to effectively contact a senator about CISPA. Remember that you'll probably speak to an intern or junior staffer who won't be able to discuss the merits of the bill, but they can take your opinion and/or give you the Senator's position.

Tips for calling a senator about CISPA

  1. If you're a constituent, they'll pay a lot more attention, so identify yourself as one if you can. (They may ask for your address to verify that.)
  2. Tell them you're calling because you strongly oppose CISPA and the CISPA provisions of three bills in the Senate: the SECURE Act (S.2151), the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (S.2102) and the Cybersecurity Act (S.2105).
  3. Ask if the senator has a position on the bill.

The staffer will likely respond one of three ways:

1. "I don't know"

Staffer: I don't have that information on-hand but that I'll register your opinion / get back to you.

You:

  • Specifically request a formal response on the senator's position, either by email or phone (it's quicker).
  • Reiterate that you strongly oppose CISPA and the other bills that end Internet privacy censorship bill and that you'll be sharing the senator's position with your community and online social networks.
  • Ask them to get back to you ASAP.
  • Bonus points: Add a short personal statement as to why you oppose the bill. For example: “I oppose CISPA because it would be the end of privacy on the Internet and place our civil liberties at the whims of companies like Facebook”.
  • Double bonus points: Log your call on the CISPA Senate contact log so everyone can see how many calls a senator has gotten.

2. The non-committal response.

Staffer: "The senator does not have a position at this time."

You:

  • Reiterate that you oppose the bills that end Internet privacy.
  • Ask the senator to oppose them when they come up this June.
  • Ask them to contact you if the senator does take a position, because you'll be sharing that with your community and online social networks.
  • Bonus points: Add a short personal statement as to why you oppose the bill. For example: “I oppose CISPA because it would be the end of privacy on the Internet and place our civil liberties at the whims of companies like Facebook”.
  • Double bonus points: Mark the senator as "undeclared" on the CISPA Senate whip count. If there's nothing new to report, please still log your call on the CISPA Senate contact log so everyone can see how many calls a senator has gotten.

3. An actual response.

This is the best-case scenario.

Staffer: The senator supports/opposes CISPA and its cousins (or is leaning one way or the other).

You:

  • (If anything less than opposition) Reiterate that you oppose the bills that end Internet privacy.
  • (If opposition) Thank the senator and tell the staffer that you'll be sharing his/her position with your community and online social networks.
  • Double bonus points: If the position is different than what's recorded on the CISPA Senate whip count. If there's nothing new to report, please still log your call on the CISPA Senate contact log so everyone can see how many calls a senator has gotten.

How to log your call or email on the contact log and whip count page

Adding to the contact log: After your call, login to your free MyOC account (required to edit the wiki), and go to the CISPA Senate contact log, find your senators, click the "edit" next to their name and simply make a note of the date & time that you called and your OC username (or real name if you prefer). Feel free to add any additional notes or context -- e.g., if you were able to speak to a legislative assistant as opposed to a junior staffer, or if they promised you a phone call before a vote and not just a letter in the mail later this month. So please do leave a note saying something simple like, “Just called - davidmoore, May. 29, 3:54pm ET, staffer answered the phone, said she didn’t know senator’s position on PIPA but she’d mail me a response and noted my opposition”.

Even if your call’s outcome was the same as a previous constituent, it’s good for the stop-CISPA campaign to know how many constituents have called each senator with their opposition.

After all, we hope that most senators’ offices will receive more than one call from constituents opposing CISPA and requesting a response before the vote. Bigger-population states especially, such as CA & NY, should be able to generate hundreds of calls against these bills.

Editing the whip count:

Go to the CISPA Senate whip count, scroll down to your senator and see if your call/email is different than what someone else has already entered. If so, your note on the contact log is good enough (see above). If you have new information, consult the key at the top of the whip count page to classify the senator's position, hit the "edit" next to their name, and use the drop-down menu to change their position. Make sure to leave a note or link in the notes field explaining how you got that information, for example, "Talked to a staffer on the phone on 5/29/12. Told me he supported the bill" or "She's quoted in this press release/tweet/article (link) as opposing the bill."

Hit "save". You're done!

Tips for emailing senators

Next, send your members an email using the Contact Congress tool on Open Congress. Contact Congress uses our system to send an email to Senate offices, but the beauty of it is that your senator's response is sent back through the system and you can post the link (totally optional) for everyone to see what they say. (Here's a great example of a reply from Sen. Maria Cantwell on PIPA.) This way, we can use that link as a definitive, reliable source on the whip count to note a senator's position. Not only are they now on the record, but there's no question of whether a person altered the email since it's all done through Contact Congress.

Follow this link to get started.

Once there, you can compose your letter and use our handy features of including more information (like campaign contributors from pro-PIPA companies). Congressional offices also take letters more seriously if they're unique, so take a minute to add your own message, such as how you value net freedom, oppose China-style DNS blocking or don’t want one single government official to be able to ban a URL without review and accountability.

Once your letter is sent, you can share the link on Twitter (use the #CISPA hashtags!), Facebook or other social media to encourage your friends to also write-in to oppose CISPA. If you get a reply, you can post that link, too. Then the senator is on the record! No journalist or other gatekeeper need be involved!

Need help? email us.

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