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exist in some form or another. Just as there is an ongoing debate about what

books are appropriate for who, there will always be a debate about what Internet

content is appropriate for who. Add to this the global aspect of the Internet,

and the scope and complexity of the issue can be envisioned.

Target audience

The clever, or perhaps just convenient aspect about online free speech

propaganda is that the propaganda is located at the very same spot that the

debate is about. In other words, if you want to promote free speech, go to

where the speech is taking place- the Internet. By promoting propaganda online

about online free speech, you are directly targeting the audience you want to

target. People who do not utilize the Internet will be less interested than

those who do, so it makes sense to locate your campaign on the Internet, where

the people there will naturally be more concerned about computer censorship

issues. An added bonus of the Internet is its relatively low cost compared to

traditional media outlets such as print or radio, so not only are these groups

promoting their causes almost directly to the people they want to reach, they

are doing it at a very low cost compared with more traditional methods. On the

other hand, these online free speech organizations have little, if any

propaganda outside of the Internet, so they are therefore not reaching the

maximum number of possible people. While they all maintain traditional offices,

phone numbers, postal mailing addresses, and fax numbers, they are virtually

unknown by the populace outside of the Internet. While purchasing print or

television advertisements might not be as direct and monetarily efficient as

utilizing the Internet to promote propaganda, those traditional methods would

help get the word out to the largest number of people.. Just as all other forms

of mass media have been utilized for the spread of propaganda, so will the


Media utilization techniques

This section is by far the most interesting because it deals primarily

with the actual examples and techniques of propaganda used by the online free

speech movement. While the propaganda of these groups is primarily limited to

the electronic realm of the Internet, it is important to remember that the

Internet is itself a multimedia tool. Unlike newspaper, for example, the

Internet can convey words, pictures, sound, and moving video. As an added

dimension, these forms can vary in unlimited colors, intensities, qualities and

quantities so that the viewer does not always know what to expect. The

important propagandistic idea of utilizing all available channels to maximize

the effect of propaganda is certainly at use here.

My first involvement with the online free speech movement, and the

reason why I decided to investigate this topic, was the Blue Ribbon Campaign.

Almost a year ago, I began to notice the occurrence of the same blue ribbon icon

on many different Internet web locations and homepages. These icons are similar

to the red AIDS awareness ribbon in terms of their appearance and function, and

the actual size of the icon in most locations is typically only about 8 mm high

by 25 wide. Of course this size depends on several computer specific variables,

but the point is that the Blue Ribbon Campaign icon is small so that it appears

quickly without taking much transfer time. The people behind the Blue Ribbon

icon knew that if they created a large space and time hogging image, that people

would become frustrated with the lethargic image and fail to gain respect for it.

However, in reality, this small icon is tiny and unobtrusive so that its

appearance on a web page is not bothersome.

The idea of using a blue ribbon is smart because of the association with

the AIDS red ribbon campaign. While people have different opinions about

homosexuality, most people, if not all, agree that aids must be stopped. Using

this logic, it makes sense to utilize this almost universal appeal of the red

ribbon by the creation of a blue ribbon. Additionally, the red ribbon icon is

very well established and is widely recognized, so once again, the adoption of a

similar blue ribbon icon is smart.

The genius of the Internet’s world wide web is the use of hyperlinks or

hypertext. Hypertext is the system of allowing the reader to click on something

and be instantly transported to another location that relates to what he or she

clicked on. Every time a Blue Ribbon Campaign icon exists on the world wide web,

it contains the Internet homepage address of the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

one of the key players in the online free speech movement. Therefore, by

clicking on the Blue Ribbon icon, the reader is instantly transferred to EFF’s

homepage. When compared again to the AIDS red ribbon movement, the advantage of

the Internet system are obvious. When one sees a person wearing an AIDS red

ribbon, he or she can not automatically and instantaneously receive information

about AIDS. The person would have to ask the red ribbon wearer for a phone

number or address where AIDS information could be found. With the Blue Ribbon

Campaign, however, the information is instant, and it fits right in with today’s

fast moving society. A person can see the Blue Ribbon icon, and can immediately

see what it means. There is no time for the person to lose interest due to

making a phone call or waiting for a postal letter to be delivered.

Therefore on a daily basis I was seeing the Blue Ribbon Campaign icons,

and several times I clicked on those icons in order to gain more information

about this symbol that kept popping up all over the place. If, on a particular

day, I was not in the mood to learn about the EFF, I could easily go back to

what I was doing before I clicked on the blue ribbon icon. However, since the

icon kept appearing at various web sites, there were times when I did feel like

exploring this interesting phenomenon further, and because the blue ribbon icon

was easy to run across, it was easy for me to enter the EFF and see what they

had to offer.

The EFF’s homepages do contain a brief history of the organization, but

there is no information about the actual origin of the Blue Ribbon Campaign.

According to electronic mail I received from Dennis Derryberry at the EFF after

querying about the origin of the Blue Ribbon Campaign: The Blue Ribbon Campaign

does not belong to any specific group; it is shared by all groups and

individuals who value and support free speech online. I believe the idea

originally was sparked by a woman who has been helping us with membership

functions, but amid all the expansion of the campaign, we kind of forgot where

it really came from. I guess that’s just the spirit of a campaign for the

benefit of the many. (Derryberry) Even if the Blue Ribbon Campaign does not

belong to any one group, it was originated by the EFF and all of the blue ribbon

icons point back to the EFF.

One of the first options of things to do when one first sees the EFF’s

opening page is to join the EFF, the Blue Ribbon Campaign, or both.. Joining

the Blue Ribbon Campaign is simple, and basically involves just giving them a

small amount of personal information and then copying one of several blue ribbon

icons to be used on your web site. There are many, many different blue ribbons

available of all different sizes and compositions, but they all revolve around

the basic blue ribbon idea. If a user is not fully pleased with the online

selection if available icons, there is an option to receive information about

many others that are available. Finally, it is also possible to create your own

blue ribbon icon and allow the EFF to give it away to be used for the same cause.

This entire emphasis on the graphic image of the campaign is a smart move

because people’s interest is aroused by images more than words. If the words

“Blue Ribbon Campaign” were seen everywhere, the impact would be less dramatic

than the colored image of the blue ribbon that accompanies these words. Even

though the doorway to the EFF is graphic based, the bulk of the EFF’s web site

contains document after document of textual information that all relates to the

CDA and freedom of speech. Also located here is the entire text of the

Telecommunications Act of 1996, including all text of the CDA. Internet users

who click on the blue ribbon icon will be taken directly to the part of the

EFF’s website that deals with the Blue Ribbon Campaign. Because the Blue Ribbon

Campaign is not the only cause the EFF supports, there is of course much more to

the EFF’s website than just this. Some of the sections of the EFF’s homepage


The Blue Ribbon Campaign section on the EFF’s homepage is set apart from

the other areas by use of the traditional blue ribbon icon. This section begins

with a link to the newest information about the CDA, and then goes on to list

links to several things including introductory information about the campaign,

federal, state, and local information, an archive of past information, examples

of Internet sites that could be banned under the CDA, activism information, and

finally a “Skeptical?” link to a page that tries to convince skeptics about

believing the EFF’s cause.

About EFF is the first thing that new visitors to the site will want to

read. This contains a brief history of the organization and answers most of the

questions people might have. This area also goes into the beliefs and

motivations behind the EFF.

Action Alerts is a list of current events that the EFF is currently

monitoring. For example, one of the most recent action alerts deals with the

latest decision on the CDA. This section also encourages people to take action

in the Blue Ribbon Campaign and provides a list of various ways to help. At the

top of the list there is a disclaimer about civil disobedience being “at least

nominally illegal”. Some of the suggested activities include: supporting a

28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to extend First Amendment rights to the

Internet, attend rallies, wear T-shirts that promote free speech online, put a

real blue ribbon pin on your backpack if you are a student, etc.. This section

also contains a list of previous example of protest and demonstration of CDA

opposition, so show that people have actually gone out to stand up for the

things that are promoted on this site.

Guide to the Internet is a document that helps acquaint novices with the

Internet in general, and does not contain any EFF or free speech related

specific material. While this seems pretty innocent, its purpose here is a bit

deeper. If more people can become more familiar with the Internet, then more

people will use the Internet and therefore hopefully become interested in online

free speech.

Archive index is an essential tool on the EFF website because of the large

number of different documents available here. This is a searchable index that

aides users in finding specific information contained in the EFF pages. For

example, if you wanted to see if the word “pornography” occurred in the CDA, you

could search for it.

Newsletter is a section that contains the current and past newsletters

of the EFF. These newsletters are updates about things the EFF is currently

involved with. I think that although much of the information contained in these

newsletters is redundant in that it can be found elsewhere on the site, there

are two reasons for this. First, the newsletter format is one that everyone is

familiar with. If a person is new to the EFF site and sees the “newsletter”

section, he or she will automatically have a general idea how information will

be presented in this format, and it will therefore be easier and more welcoming

to read than other types of information. Secondly, the newsletter is important

because it is repeated information. One key aspect of propaganda is repetition,

so the duplication of certain information in the newsletter accomplishes that.

Calendar is a listing of future events and dates that are important to

EFF. Many of the listings here are protest rallies and schedule speeches that

look good when many people attend. This provides a consolidated listing of

dates that is easy to access, without having to search all over the site for

things. Also, the information here is available for download so that it can be

put into a person’s personal time management software on his or her own computer.

This gives the EFF an indirect link to remind you where to go and when.

Job openings provides information about applying to the EFF for a job

with the EFF.

Merchandise lets members and nonmembers purchase T-shirts and metal Blue

Ribbon Campaign pins to help spread the word.

Awards gives a list of the 19 awards won by the EFF for various things

such as “Best of the Web” and “Top 250 Lycos Sites”. The display of these

awards legitimizes the organization and shows to others that many people are

visiting this site.

Staff Homepages at first seems somewhat boring, but this section is

actually a list of the staff, in rank order, and a short description of what

each person does at the EFF. Clicking on the person’s name takes you to their

homepage. This display of information once again reinforces the idea of white

propaganda that the EFF uses.

Miscellaneous contains a sponsors list, other publications of interest,

and EFF related images, sounds, and animations.

A second example of online free speech propaganda on the Internet is a

homepage promoting the lawsuit filed by The Citizens Internet Empowerment

Coalition (CIEC, “seek”) against the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney

General Janet Reno. This page is designed to look like a 1700’s handbill or

poster and to arouse emotions of patriotism and fighting for one’s country. It

would be difficult for an American to view this document and not be reminded of

how we fought for our freedom from the English. Icons of patriots shouting out

loud, canons and American flags, and pictorial representations of the

Constitution all arouse emotions of fighting for what is right. This page also

contains an 4 minute audio clip that is available for download. This audio is

Judith Krug of the American Libraries Association speaking about the censorship

of libraries. The reader has to only click on the icon and the audio will be

transferred to his or her computer and the user listens to the audio as it is

transmitted. Aside from these audio and visual messages, this site is

similar to the EFF’s in that it contains lots of information and links to

related anti-CDA sites.

Another website that utilizes propaganda is operated by the Center for

Democracy and Technology (CDT). This site is one of many that utilizes an

animated “Free Speech” icon that displays fireworks exploding in the air. Like

other examples, this too is very patriotic. Also like other sites, the CDT

displays various Internet awards they have won, as well as the number of people

they have signed up who support the lawsuit against the CDA.

Counter propaganda

While there are groups and people who favor the CDA, there is very

little propaganda promoting these beliefs. Part of the reason for this is that

the whole debate over the CDA seems to be a very nonpartisan issue in terms of

Republicans and Democrats. If this had been a partisan issue, there would

certainly be propaganda on both sides. The main reason that little counter

propaganda exists is that the CDA is the law, so people who are for it have

already been appeased to a certain extent. The anti-CDA groups are protesting

and using propaganda because the CDA is the law, and they want it changed. As

with many things in life, it is more common to hear complaints from people who

are not satisfied than from people who are ple

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