Since last year's protests in Seattle, environmental and global
justice activists have been the targets of heavy surveillance. But
government agencies aren't the only ones doing the spying. Big
business has joined the game too, writes Burhan Wazir in the
British newspaper The Observer.
Electronics giants such as Sony are using the Internet to hit back at troublesome eco-warriors, Wazir reports. 'Sony's problem with the greenies is this: its products contain toxins and are difficult to dispose of. Environmentalists would like tougher controls. Sony wants to avoid them.'
In a recently leaked internal memo titled 'NGO Strategy,' Sony officials laid out their plans for countering eco-critics. '[The document] bears all the Cold War histrionics of J. Edgar Hoover's G-Men,' says Wazir. '[It] discloses the names, contacts and Internet addresses of leading environmental groups that pose a public relations threat to the company - the Northern Alliance for Sustainability, Greenpeace, the European Environment Bureau, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and Friends of the Earth.'
That may sound like the standard tactics any sensible PR flak would employ, but here's the kicker: Sony recommends that the electronics industry hire 'web investigation agencies' to snoop on and counteract critics.
Sony's own hired guns, Infonic, Plc, represent a host of corporate giants, including Shell Oil, British Airways, Levis Strauss & Co and Unilever. One of the leaders in this emerging field, Infonic's web-site declares: 'Suddenly a company's voice is no longer louder than that of its leading critics. Activists, customers, journalists and employees are talking to each other like never before, with big business finding it increasingly difficult to stay in the conversation.' -- Leif Utne