21st Log: MoveOn moves offline


Andrew Leonard
October 28, 1998 1:00AM (UTC)

The folks behind MoveOn.org aren't moving on just yet. A month into their project, the bipartisan group of "concerned citizens" has gathered more than 250,000 signatures on an online petition that asks the government to simply censure President Clinton and move on to more important issues.

Now they're taking their message offline. At noon on Thursday, in 226 districts across America, volunteers from MoveOn will simultaneously present the petitions in person to members of the House of Representatives. The hope, says spokesperson Joan Blades, is that the event will inspire the representatives to take the petition seriously -- and the general public to go vote responsibly.

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The numbers the group has gathered are impressive: Besides the digital signatures, MoveOn has 2,000 volunteers that have distributed more than 20,000 paper pages of comments to politicians and directed 30,000 phone calls to district offices.

"Hopefully the voters are going to be thinking about this when they go to the polls, and thinking about who's going to represent them most effectively," says Blades. "This vote is important. We all need to be there and get our voices to be heard."


-- Janelle Brown


SALON | Oct. 29, 1998

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Millennium pundit vs. Wired

Hell hath no fury like a Y2K doomsayer scorned -- or so Wired News discovered when a story it recently ran, "Y2K: The Missionary Position," provoked the wrath of Gary North, the vociferous millennium bug expert-cum-Christian economist.

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The story, by Joe Nickell, delineated concerns within some Christian organizations that scare-mongering about the year 2000 problem was running rampant in some conservative Christian groups. Although the story didn't mention North, he immediately posted a long response on his own site calling it "smear journalism." The response included both a link to Wired News and "substantial" excerpts of the story, according to Wired.

Wired Digital's lawyers, in turn, sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that North immediately remove the text because "it is a violation of federal copyright law ... to quote substantially all of an article."

Now North is crying foul, suggesting that his First Amendment rights are being quashed as part of a liberal political agenda.

Responds Wired Digital spokesperson Andrew De Vries, "There was nothing ideological about it at all. He's posting a substantial piece of a copyrighted article without permission."

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North has removed most of the Wired text from his site, but he sounds like he's sure he'll have the last laugh. As he puts it on his site, "I believe that Wired and the liberal world view that sustains it have only 15 months to go. Y2K will serve as my response."


-- Janelle Brown


SALON | Oct. 29, 1998

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Chinese human rights site hacked

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On Monday, the People's Republic of China launched a Web site devoted to human rights. On Monday night, hackers from abroad -- ostensibly outraged at the very notion of the autocratic communist Chinese state paying lip service to human rights -- replaced the main page with a page of their own, headlined "Boycott China."

The hackers, calling themselves "Bronc Buster" and "Zyklon," had a few choice words to say about the state of human rights in China, and even provided links to some Western-based human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights in China. Then, as has become de rigueur in recent Web-hacking episodes, they ranted about the imprisonment of Kevin Mitnick.

The irony inherent in an official Chinese government-controlled Web site devoted to human rights, when access to Web sites about human rights in China is often blocked, hasn't been lost on observers. But the real and more unfortunate irony is that this latest hacking episode is likely to reinforce the Chinese government's suspicion and fear of the Internet, and will probably result in an even harsher crackdown on Internet use -- and human rights.


-- Andrew Leonard



SALON | Oct. 28, 1998

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Bruce Sterling's save-the-world mailing list

Earlier this month, science fiction author Bruce Sterling announced the creation of Viridian, a new technocultural art movement. Sterling's goal? Nothing less than saving the world from environmental Armageddon.

Sterling says he won't actually launch Viridian until Jan. 3, 2000. The new millennium, he believes, will be eagerly receptive to new ideas. (Why Jan. 3? Well, on Jan. 1, everyone will be hung over, and on Jan. 2, nobody's computer will work.) In the meantime, Sterling is working out the basic principles of the movement, and has set up a moderated mailing list for the "Viridian Greens" to hash out the details.

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What's it all about? Greenhouse warming, says Sterling, is undeniable to all save fools and fat cats, but previous "green" environmental attempts to change the world have failed. Sterling's answer is to concoct a new esthetic -- one that values healthy design, eschews 20th century-style waste and flourishes through distributed, collective, networked development.

Sterling has dubbed himself the movement's "mad Pope-Emperor." The whole scheme sounds suspiciously similar to the plot of a Sterling novel -- but like Sterling's works, it's audacious, funny and eloquent. Interested mailing list subscribers can e-mail the man himself, at bruces@well.com.


-- Andrew Leonard


SALON | Oct. 27, 1998

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A good read on Web governance

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Everybody knows that the Web has no government and no ruling bodies. And yet there is an organization called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), based at MIT and headed by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the Web. It's generally known, by people who pay attention to such things, that the W3C is responsible for codifying the open standards for HTML, the language of Web pages. But what else does this shadowy group do?

You can find some answers in "The Web's Unelected Government," a profile of the W3C by Simson Garfinkel, a Wired contributing writer, in MIT's Technology Review. Garfinkel's article outlines the evolution of the W3C and traces its participation in recent initiatives for Internet content filtering and privacy protection.

The piece may be a case of one arm of MIT commenting on another, but that doesn't stop Garfinkel from presenting some fairly pointed criticism of the W3C's decision-making structure -- in which hundreds of members may advise but Berners-Lee makes the final calls. On the other hand, the W3C doesn't have any legal authority to begin with -- so if it's a dictatorship, it's a strangely powerless one.

-- Scott Rosenberg


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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