Campaigners against a treaty which would seriously limit internet freedom swarmed through London today (Saturday) as part of a global day of action.
Around 600 people took part in the protest against the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), which would force signatory countries to take draconian action against internet file sharing.
It would also hand corporations power to force the closure of websites they suspect of hosting pirated material. It would give further powers to internet service providers to spy on user activities.
Demonstrators chanted “Don’t shut down the internet—shut down the 1 percent” as they held up traffic on some of the capital’s busiest roads.
Campaigners are angry that the agreement was drafted in secret. It originated in the US but is now being pushed by governments including Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia and Mexico, and the European Union (EU).
The EU is set to vote on Acta in June.
The demonstration began in central London outside the headquarters of UK Music, a trade association of music companies. The original plan was to leaflet shoppers.
But protesters quickly decided to march to Occupy camp at St Paul’s.
Marchers held a series of demonstrations on route—outside the US embassy, parliament and the Royal Courts of Justice.
“Acta is against freedom of speech,” said Vera, an activist from Poland. “There’s been a media blackout of these protests, but hundreds of thousands have marched across Europe to stop it.”
Vera argued that the experience of dictatorship in Poland meant that there was a huge turnout there against Acta.
The treaty has become such a political liability that countries including Germany and Switzerland have held off from signing it.
Charities such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam have warned that Acta will also give extra powers to multinationals to prevent cheap drugs being used in the Third World. Others have said that it will make it easier to prevent online political activism.
Martin Huston from FlossUK, one of the open rights organisations that backed the protest, spoke to Socialist Worker.
“It’s been a good day,” he said. “The impromptu march wasn’t planned. And lots of people joined it on the way.
“It was great we protested outside the US embassy too, because it is US corporations that are behind all this.”
Protests were also held in around 150 towns and cities across the world as part of the day of action.