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One of the most positive aspects of the internet is that it provides the public with a truly unmediated forum with which to present information and consolidate resources.
Since it guarantees that people's original ideas can be presented in an unfiltered format, this is especially a boon for those interested in free speech and consumer activism. The following is a quick crash course on some of the best web sites on the internet for the socially conscious.
Heading up the pack is the consistently interesting and somewhat pioneering, Free Speech Internet Television, accessible at freespeech.org. Not only does this not-for-profit site offer a sizable amount of free web space to users, it also offers culturally important video streams on a day to day basis.
While the streams vary in terms of subject matter (anything from Noam Chomsky lecturing on the state of American prisons to reports on the genetic manipulation of produce are deemed fair game), they're always relevant presentations that don't just rehash the same angle that we've already been spoon-fed by CNN.
All of the multimedia streams are archived and some are up to an hour long, so there's plenty at Free Speech designed to provoke thought and discussion. In fact, the designers of the site are so dedicated to user participation, that they've included extensive documentation and tutorials designed to aid those looking to present their own ideas in streaming format.
Those looking for something with more of an anti-consumerist slant should head over to the Adbusters site at adbusters.org. This spin-off from the popular magazine contains a lot of content which is exclusive to the web and offers a fairly good melange of resources for those who are looking into more information consumerism.
Of particular interest are the online art galleries which depict everything from "uncommercials" (featuring the best results from a contest which encouraged readers to make a social statement with an advertisement) to the latest spoof ads, which effectively turn the discourse of advertising against itself.
Also worthy of note is the campaign section of the site, which provides ample information, including contacts and web links, for a wide variety of global programs. Everything ranging from Buy Nothing Day to TV Turnoff Week is represented. All told, this is engrossing stuff that'll serve as an apt starting block for the brand name impaired.
Also worthy of passing mention is a site with a slightly narrower focus. The Truth (thetruth.com) generally concentrates on only one issue. Their current feature on the politics of the tobacco industry is harrowing stuff.
Using a combination of slick visuals and elegant design methods, The Truth paints a damaging picture of the cigarette industry and elaborately uncovers some of the tactics that have allegedly been employed to increase sales.
And while it's by no means the final word on the subject, it's certainly another side to the story one we would not have seen without the net.