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GCSB bill protests kick off

Saturday 27 Jul 2013 7:07 a.m.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out this weekend to protest the Government's proposed changes to the GCSB.

A series of protests are planned across the country, aiming to show the Government people are against revisions which will allow the national spy agency to legally spy on New Zealand citizens.

University student Matthew Weaver started a Facebook campaign three weeks ago after being encouraged by another social media site – Reddit.

"I posted to Reddit thinking we could get a social awareness campaign, like with the [anti-section 92a campaign] and marriage equality bill. It was basically trying to get people to change their display pictures… to build up awareness about it," he says.

"Redditors were messaging me telling me 'we need to protest this'… so we decided to do that."

The Facebook page Stop the GCSB Bill has almost 15,000 likes, and individual pages set up for protests have received hundred of positive RSVPs.

The Green Party is sending its MPs to speak at events in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch on Saturday, and to another at the Waihopai spy base in Marlborough on Sunday.

Rallies have also been organised in Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Palmerston North, Nelson, Dunedin and Invercargill on Saturday.

Mr Weaver's interest in the bill was first piqued after seeing Tech Liberty NZ activist Thomas Beagle speaking at the Intelligence and Security Select Committee earlier this month – and he says he was stoked when Mr Beagle signed up to speak at the protests.

"It was a bit of a thrilled moment when he accepted my friend request on Facebook… a bit of fanboyism went on there."

The bill will start going through its remaining stages in Parliament next week, with its second reading likely on Tuesday.

Mr Weaver says activist John Minto joined the movement and helped it present a united front – and he is confident unions won't take over the day.

"He was talking about wanting to protest in general just more against attacks on democracy, but he was really keen to have it be a coalition whatever happens," he says.

Mr Weaver says he is most concerned about the provisions allowing the GCSB to track metadata – a digital footprint which can be used to show where a person has been, phonecalls they have made, things they have bought and a host of other information.

But some social media users already share a form of metadata in terms of location information, so what's the difference between that and the GCSB legislation?

"Choice," says Mr Weaver. "When people post to Facebook and Twitter they have the choice of setting their settings whether they want to show people where they are. It's your choice about how much of your privacy you are willing to share."

He also says Labour has to stick by its word and repeal any changes if it wins next year's election.

"That would be a certainly good way for them to lose votes at this point, by breaking one of their first promises"

3 News / NZN

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