Activism on the World Wide Web

The Internet can be a truly powerful tool for activist organizations. E-mail makes it fast and inexpensive for an activist group to send its message to any number of people, and the Web is an excellent way for such groups to provide information to the "general public" with minimal expenditures of time or financial resources (Harris, 1997). In addition, the Internet allows geographically distant activist groups to network their efforts and share information.

Activist groups need not look much further than the Web itself to get detailed information about how to use the Internet in its activities. A site sponsored by The Institute for First Amendment Studies provides an entire page of "how-to" articles for activist groups. The sites gives activists guides that include topics such as campaign strategies, communication techniques, mass media, and coalition-building (First Amendment, 1998).

Many activist-related sites are resources of on-topic articles and hypertext links to related sites. The online Institute for Global Communications describes itself as "a unique, global community of progressive individuals and organizations," and is the U.S. member of a world- wide organization that links activists around the globe. Its mission is to "expand and inspire movements for peace, economics and social justice, human rights, and environmental sustainability around the world" by providing computer networking. It is a one-stop guide to those interested in using PeaceNet, EcoNet, ConflictNet, LaborNet, or WomensNet (Global, 1998).

A specific recent example of activist use of the World Wide Web was during an infestation of Mediterranean Fruit Flies in southern Florida. During the Medfly eradication efforts, local environmentalists and activists posted on the Web articles and letters that contended that malathion, the aerial bait used by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to stop the infestation, posed a serious environmental and health hazard. Literally overnight, the $6 billion Florida citrus industry was faced with a formidable challenge (Wohl, 1997).