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The Sunday Telegraph: Online revolutionaries

The Sunday Telegraph: 10 September 2007


ARTICLE ABOUT GRIPE WEBSITES

EXTRACTS

Today’s activists are giving business a bloody nose from behind their keyboards – not the barricades.

Revolutions used to happen in the streets – these days they take place online. And the targets are more often big businesses than bad governments. Banks, in particular, are feeling the brunt of grassroots internet campaigns.

Courts and trademark bodies are increasingly supportive of individuals and pressure groups when someone registers a domain name similar to that of their target so long as the site is non-commercial, with no subscriptions and no paid advertising.

Oil company Shell found this out when it tried, unsuccessfully, to claim ownership of the name Royaldutchshellplc.com. The website belongs to Alfred Donovan, now in his 90s, and his son John. The Donovans owned a chain of petrol stations in east London and Essex and created sales promotions campaigns for Shell. But they fell out with the company and aired their grievances online.

Their site became a hub for activists and disgruntled former employees. It has been used to mobilise support for environmental campaigns by the likes of WWF, the environmental lobbying group, against drilling in the Arctic and Russia, for groups worried about Shell’s social impact in Ireland and Nigeria, and by the company’s former group auditor Bill Campbell to raise issues about employee safety.

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