On Tuesday, Congress voted along party lines to reverse an Obama-era online privacy bill that prohibited internet service providers from using customers’ personal information and online behavior to push highly targeted ads — without their knowledge or consent. After it was announced that the House would be voting on the bill, Matt Temkin, one of the creators of the party game Cards Against Humanity, vowed to buy and publish the browsing history of every member of Congress and congressional aide in retaliation. (H/T Roll Call.)
It’s not the first time Temkin has used his platform to promote a very of-the-moment, troll-ish brand of activism. Earlier this month, Cards Against Humanity caught wind of the fact that Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin sent a cease and desist letter to a constituent who had been calling his office repeatedly. In response, Cards Against Humanity posted on its website, “Legally, we’re not allowed to call Senator Johnson a cruel idiot who doesn’t understand how health insurance works. But we are allowed to mail thousands of potatoes to his office demanding that he listen to his constituents and hold a town hall meeting.” A website, johnsonpotato.com, was set up to allow for the easy transfer of potatoes to Johnson’s Milwaukee office, in the hopes that the senator would schedule a town hall.
And in February, Temkin sent a copy of a board game called Secret Hitler to every U.S. senator along with a letter describing the game, which was funded via Kickstarter in 2015, as a party game that “models the rise of fascism in a democracy.” Hitler’s plan, the letter goes on, “required the cooperation of well meaning men who hoped to appease and control the Nazis. Our game explores that relationship and highlights the difficulty of recognizing your own manipulation before it’s too late. Although our game takes place in 1933 Germany, we thought you and your staff might find our game relevant as you negotiate the power of balance with the Trump White House.”
Now, Temkin is vowing to use Congress’s actions against its own members. Unsurprisingly, the pledge shot to the top of Reddit, where Temkin published a lengthy post late last night expressing amazement at the response. “We are incredibly excited to see Reddit rally behind a fair and open internet,” he wrote. “We couldn’t have started our company without it.” The post urges users to donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Fransisco-based non-profit digital rights group, and points out that fulfilling this promise may be a long and tedious process involving Freedom of Information Requests.
But Temkin also expressed wariness at the amount of attention his proposal has invited. “Our basic human rights, like the right to privacy, are being sold to the highest bidder while the best minds of our generation are here on Reddit asking pro gamers if they want to fight a horse-sized duck or whatever,” he wrote. “Real, material change requires sacrifice. You probably can’t do it on a computer.” He mentions the activist website 5calls.org, adding, “If 100 Redditors called a congressman, it would freak them out and their staff would have to do something about it. It really doesn’t take much.” You heard the man.