Website review: E-advocacy

Published: Sunday 29 February 2004 is a virtual advocacy platform that offers people the opportunity to put pressure on government on matters that might be cultural, political and environmental. Started six years ago, its website claims the " MoveOn community" now numbers 2.3 million. MoveOn brings ordinary American citizens together to form electronic advocacy groups who write mail and appeal till Washington listens to them. Any member can propose an issue that deserves attention, and the strategem whereby that issue is to be dealt with. The ideas that get the maximum support are turned into campaigns. Once the MoveOn community makes a decision, it can flood congressional offices with hundreds of thousands of phone calls and online petitions in a matter of days. MoveOn groups have worked on environmental protection, media reform, energy, campaign finance and the war in Iraq.

Indeed, it has created a style of online activism that has begun to have real effects. For one, billionaire George Soros and his business partner Peter Lewis have pledged a us $5 million grant to MoveOn to help create a us $15 million advertising campaign meant to work against George Bush during the presidential campaign now underway in the us. And during the Superbowl held on February 1, 2004 (the Superbowl is American football's premiere event, the 'final' of the year-long national football league), when cbs refused to air the website's commercial criticising President Bush's us $3-trillion-and-rising budget deficit, the network found more than 34,000 protest e-mails in its inbox. MoveOn supporters accused cbs (it had the broadcasting rights for the game show) of cosying up to the president; newspapers published edits urging the media network to show the commercial, and more than 20 members of Congress dashed off angry letters to the network's president.

The 30-second ad, called Child's Pay, shows children toiling in factories, clearing trash and vacuuming floors. For the ad, MoveOn members themselves pooled together us $1.5 million. cbs allegedly agreed to run the ad but then pulled the plug at the last moment. cbs says the ad didn't meet its broadcast standards. MoveOn believes it is an attack on free speech.

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