HAL 2001: How to set up a successful
by Peter de Ruiter
Saturday 11 August 11 AM Stage 3
This text is published at Cyberacties.nl,
a (Dutch) site devoted to cyberactions, initiated by Peter de Ruiter,
who can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org
and + 31 70 3060013
about cyberactions is highly structured. First I will discuss what cyberactions
are, then who you can set up one, then when to do this and why. How
do you do this successfully and where can you find resources to do so?
At the end, I present some do's and don'ts and a bunch of quotes from
a quick survey I did among organizations that use cyberactions. Then
we can discuss.
A cyberaction is any kind of action that in taken on or via the internet
to reach a political goal. Political here applies to society as a whole.
Not only government. The essence of a cyberaction is that you want to
organize people to support a goal. Whether your illegal neighbor is
threatened to be thrown out his house and out of the country or climate
change is on its way, you want to prevent this by giving people a place
to express their opinion about this - in writing of just with their
name and email address.
Much used ways to quantify support to
a cyberaction are
- collecting names and email address of people who support the goal
- having people write certain authorities by email to express their
- having people publish their opinion directly or indirectly on the
Internet is the most democratic medium in existence. Virtually anybody
can set up a cyberaction, not only Greenpeace or the World Wide Fund
for Nature. There are almost no technical or financial barriers and
it doesn't take a lot of time. The internet provides plenty of free,
user friendly methods and resources. You don't agree with the way the
local politicians handle the traffic in your neighborhood? Design a
cyberaction in an hour and contact the people you always met in your
elevator but you were afraid to talk to for help.
When and why
As a whole, I think the reason for setting up a cyberaction shouldn't
be to individualistic. For instance, the action shouldn't concern only
one person with a individual problem. In order to be credible and able
to stimulate people to support, the action should have a broader goal,
for instance attacking a political or corporate policy on a certain
subject. Of course your illegal neighbor can be the example to illustrate
the effect of this policy.
How and where
The how to set up a cyberaction and the where to find resources need
the most attention. I'll give you a blue print of 'how to'. Let's say
you don't agree with the fact that authorities want to kick your illegal
neighbor out of his house and out of the country.
1) Contact a few neighbors and form a
2) Get the information straight from the illegal neighbor and from the
3) Make a simple homepage (let's call it the action page) at one of
the websites where you can do this for free and that contain a user
friendly program to help you do this (like Tripod.com).
Publish the information and say you oppose on humanitarian grounds,
despite of what the law says.
4) Open a (free) email address where people mail a (perhaps pre-written)
text to in order to show they support the action. This way you can a)
collect names and email addresses of people and b) gather personal opinions
of supporters concerning this issue you can publish on the action page.
You can also open a free discussion forum where people can publish their
opinions directly - and link to it.
5) Ask the members of the committee to invite people in the neighborhood
they know to the action page. And ask these people to do the same.
6) Send out a press release to local websites and news media in the
7) Monitor the reactions, give feedback when needed, bundle them and
offer them to the proper authorities.
From start to finish, the whole process
could be done in one or two weeks. You'll be amazed what you can accomplish
and the attention you will get, probably not only from local media.
Design an action page at Tripod.com
Open an email address at Hotmail.com
or look for a free pop mail address (in Holland 12move.nl
runs quite smoothly). Start a discussion forum at Server.com.
Here you can also start a free mailing list that people can subscribe
to so you can easily inform them about developments and results.
8) Inform supporters about the results.
9) Be creative. Do not imitate other actions,
but give yours an original swing.
Do's and don'ts
Phil Agre of UCLA gives a number of useful
suggestions in order to set up a successful what he calls 'action alert
for the internet'. Read it and don't get discouraged, because it's quite
Two don'ts are:
- Don't use spamming as a form of cyber action unless you want to bite
the hands that should feed you. Don't let people mail an authority directly,
but let them mail you and then offer all of the these mails to the authority
in one package in an agreed format, digital of physical.
- Don't use a chain letter where you can
write your name under as a form of cyberaction. They get messed up by
forwarding and lost somewhere along the tracks. Last month a newspaper
in the Netherlands published the experience of medical doctor B. Meyboom
- de Jong with the chain letter concerning the Brazilian boy Brian.
I guess you know his case: an internet provider should have donated
0,0001 cent for every email that would be forwarded in order to sponsor
Well, doctor Meyboom forwarded the email
to a couple of friends. And the friends did the same. But one of these
friends added to the forwarded email: for more information contact doctor
Meyboom, and gave her telephone number. After a year and a half, she
still gets called form people all over the planet. 'It comes in waves',
she says. And them this Brian doesn't exist at all.
A special kind of cyber action is this:
21 October will be this year's Jam Echelon
Day. A group called Cipherwar want to distort the international eavesdropping
network that scans all our telephone conversations and emails. The network
reacts if one of more 'trigger words' are found in communications like
counterterrorism and information warfare. Than the information is monitored
closely by agents. But what if everybody adds these trigger words in
their emails? Then Echelon will have to employ the half of the planet
in order to be able to check it all out. Find the trigger words at Cipherwar.com/echelon
and the World Wide Fund
for Nature (WWF) can be regarded as forerunners when it come to
cyberactions. At WWF supporters can become a member of the Panda
Passport. As a member, you are regularly invited to sign petitions
of send email messages when nature is at stake anywhere in the world.
Greenpeace International has its Cyberactivist
Community with 25.000 members worldwide and growing with 200 a day,
says Ilja Jutte of Greenpeace
Netherlands. To her, cyberactions work best when companies or policians
worry about their image. Even limited pressure by way of a cyberaction
can result in the right behavior towards the environment.
A special kind of cyberactions by Greenpeace
are the webcams that show pollution to the whole world. 'Cyberactions
though will never replace the rubber boats, but with every action in
the physical world we nowadays think of how we can let the public participate
via the net', says Ilja Jutte. A good spin off of the Cybercentre is
that people meet there and fight environmental issues locally, even
apart from Greenpeace.
Greenpeace about the importance of cyberactivism
of Amnesty International
says the internet is becoming more and more important in fighting human
right issues. For instance, members and other people are asked to email
authorities in countries were political prisoners are mistreated. The
several national organizations of Amnesty work independently, but they
are moving toward an international approach of these actions. The SMS
action which is now running is a success. In this action one can reply
to an SMS message and this way protest against the mistreatment of prisoners.
Amnesty has similar email actions.
of the Earth, a loose international federation of environmental
organizations, is in Holland represented by Milieudefensie.
Koen Vink of Milieudefensie says they are working on a cybercentre like
Greenpeace. They hope to get a grant from the Dutch government for this.
Their recent (physical and digital) action 'Groene Grens' (Green Frontier)
is considered a success with 13.000 gathered supporters via the internet.
The facilitation of discussion forums is one of the main activities
there is an organization in the south of the Netherlands that fights
for the survival of their language 'Limburgs'. Their website is an important
meeting point and medium for the dissemination of information. Paul
Prikken of Limburghuis.nl
says that the dictionary of the Limburg language that is on the site
is very popular. The amount of downloads represent the support the organization
has. Being a small group without many funds, Paul praises the fact that
the internet is so cheap to use to reach your goals. It also gets you
in contact with a much younger crowd than in the physical world. And
to get response, there is no medium that can beat the internet, says