A grassroots protest campaign dubbed "Blackout UK" is aiming to "push back" against the UK's new surveillance legislation – the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPBill) – by calling on websites operating in the UK to "block or restrict" access for 24 hours on 12 December.

Under the tagline "Stop internet censorship and fight back", organiser Jude Burns, a 28-year-old software engineer living in Southampton, is now urging privacy-conscious activists to email major websites about the campaign, contact politicians and sign an already-bustling petition.

"Fundamentally I believe the internet should be free," he told IBTimes UK. "It is one of the greatest tools that the ordinary person can use to make a difference in the world. I started the campaign to raise awareness about what the government is doing and to get people to push back."

The bill, which is often called the Snoopers' Charter, gives the government, police and intelligence agencies enhanced spying, hacking and bulk collection powers. It forces communications providers to store data for 12 months, including calls, emails, texts and internet browsing history.

Outlining the scope of the campaign, Burns said: "If we could generate enough interest and get a big company or internet service provider on board we could replace their website with an information page. Imagine if Google changed its background colour to support us, for example.

"You would reach millions of people with information they simply are not getting from the papers or mainstream media. There was a similar campaign in which Wikipedia and many others restricted access in protest a few years ago and I was hoping for a similar effect."

Indeed, back in 2012 a slew of websites – including Google, Mozilla, Wikipedia and Reddit – launched co-ordinated protests against an invasive US internet law – the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa). Some firms put large banners on the homepage, others shuttered access completely.

Burns admitted no internet providers are currently signed up to Blackout UK, but stressed it was "effectively day two" of it launching. He said: "I didn't really expect a response this large so I am currently working on consolidating all the resources people are giving me.

"This campaign really isn't about me or what I've done, it's the collective effort of thousands of people working together without knowing anything about each other except a common cause." If the protest petition is taken as evidence, over 150,000 people may agree.

After being granted royal assent, it seems inevitable the IPBill will be enacted before the end of 2016. While Burns' grassroots protest attempt is one way for opponents to voice opposition, another way to push back against the establishment will be through the legal system.

The latter avenue is currently being explored by Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, who outlined these plans during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session on 1 December.

"There will be a pushback through the courts," he said. "The EU courts have taken a much tougher line on this than the UK courts, because of the makeup of the judges, and the sensitivity they have to ensure that the EU is seen by domestic courts, especially Germany, to uphold fundamental rights."

He added: "Ultimately it is up to the public. Are we going to accept this? I say we don't."


Read our overview of the Investigatory Powers Bill here.