Our History

Demand Progress was founded in late 2010 by David Segal, at the time a Rhode Island state lawmaker, and technologist Aaron Swartz; the pair had worked together during David’s unsuccessful progressive primary campaign for an open seat in Congress. It all began with an online petition and alliance-building campaign that eventually helped defeat the infamous internet censorship bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

That set the stage for Demand Progress’s first decade of organizing for a free and open internet, and eventually expanding to focus on other issues arising from the concentration and   abuse of power.

In the aftermath of the campaign against SOPA, Demand Progress helped lead efforts to successfully block online surveillance bills such as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Demand Progress also helped lead the public push for reform of surveillance practices at the hands of the National Security Agency in the wake of Snowden’s revelations.

All the while, Demand Progress contended with the infamous, unjust prosecution of its cofounder Aaron Swartz –– for allegedly downloading too many academic articles from the JSTOR cataloguing service –– and tragically ending with Aaron’s suicide. Demand Progress has fought for a modicum of justice for Aaron by repeatedly preventing the expansion and harshening of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the law under which Aaron was prosecuted.

Demand Progress went on to co-lead successful efforts to compel the institution of net neutrality rules in 2014-2015. This work steeredDemand Progress to encompass a broader critique of corporate power in our economy and governance structures –– including  through endeavors to check the power of the dominant online platforms.

Demand Progress worked with allied organizations to inform the year-long House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust investigations, leading to the report by the Subcommittee on Antitrust making recommendations for Congress to rein in Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Moreover, Demand Progress pushes back against corporate control of our government by advocating for modernization to make it more transparent and effective, and for ways to strengthen Congress and its oversight of the executive branch, to name a few.

And our national security and human rights work, first born from our opposition to mass surveillance, has grown to include advocacy in opposition to militarism and an elevation of Congress’s power to act as a check on warmaking.