web wars

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Thu Nov 15 11:42:00 CST 2001

[ed: here is an entertaining one on the new tactics of the new 

From:  	RTMark Bulletin <ann0074 at rtmark.com>

November 15, 2001

As it meets in Qatar, WTO attempts to shut down critical website;
group counters with site-stealing software

Contacts:  Jonathan Prince (mailto:jonathan at killyourtv.com)
           Jean-Guy Carrier (mailto:jean-guy.carrier at wto.org)
           Verio (mailto:copyright at verio.net)
           The Yes Men (mailto:info at theyesmen.org)
Software:  http://www.theyesmen.org/yesiwill/

Last Friday, Jonathan Prince, who owns the Gatt.org domain, 
received a
call from Verio, Gatt.org's upstream provider. The World Trade
Organization had just asked Verio to shut down the domain for
copyright violations, and Verio told Prince that it would do just that
if nothing was changed by November 13--the last day of the Doha
Ministerial, as it would happen. An official email followed

(Last-minute update: Verio's shutdown is currently expected 
after noon EST today--watch software sites above for updates.)

"It's the war," says Prince. "Bush has popularized zero-tolerance, 
it's open season on dissent of any kind. So just when they're 
in Doha, the WTO has decided to divert attention from its problems 
attacking a website."

"Or maybe they really do want to make it so that protest has as little
place on the web as it does in Qatar," adds Prince.

Oddly enough, the WTO has been aware of the parody website 
before the 1999 Ministerial in Seattle, when it issued a public
statement claiming the site misled visitors

Two weeks ago, the WTO issued another release
one claiming that Gatt.org was harvesting e-mails, an allegation
reprinted as fact in some newspaper articles

While it may be puzzling why the WTO chose to issue a second 
release about Gatt.org two years later, it is even more surprising
that they are now taking concrete steps to stop the critical site.  
In statements made just last week to the French daily newspaper
Liberation and to others, WTO spokesperson Jean-Guy Carrier 
that "It's not our job to use legal means against people. We
appreciate dissidence and honest criticism."

Why the sudden change of attitude?

"They got nervous, it's only human," said Elaine Peabody, a
spokesperson for The Yes Men (http://www.theyesmen.org), the 
that maintains the Gatt.org website.  "The WTO remembers what 
the last time they had one of these meetings [in Seattle].  They felt
like tackling something they knew they could handle--and a satirical
website fit the bill."


But the WTO could well have stepped on a hornets' nest.  To 
the attack, the Yes Men have are releasing today a piece of
open-source "parodyware" (http://theyesmen.org/yesiwill/) that will
"forever make this kind of censorship obsolete," according to 

"Using this software, it takes five minutes to set up a convincing,
personalized, evolving parody of the WTO.org website, or any 
website of your choice," said Peabody, who helped to develop the
program. "All you need is a place to put it--say, WTOO.org,
WorldTradeOrg.com, whatever."

The software, called "Yes I Will!", automatically duplicates websites
as needed, changing words and images as the user desires--with 
that can be very telling. The WTO site can be made to speak of
"consumers" and "companies" rather than "citizens" and 
Unleashed on the CNN.com website, the software can simplify the
reporting even further by referring to Bush as "Leader," and the war
in Afghanistan as one between "Good" and "Evil"; a Time.com 
linked from the site then discusses "The Poor Way of War". The 
site updates itself automatically as the target website changes.

"The idea is to insure that even if they shut down our website,
hundreds of others will continue our work of translation," said
Peabody. "The more they try to fight it, the funnier they're going to

"Such heavy-handed tactics work as poorly in cyberspace as they 
do on
the geopolitical stage," said Cooper Kharms, another Yes Man. "At
least Gatt.org was transparent: you could tell what it was by reading
a line or two. These other sites may not be so obvious."

Prince thinks the software, while interesting, is not a solution.
"With their attack on Gatt.org, an unelected, unaccountable
organization is running roughshod over the USA Bill of Rights," said
Prince. "But every day they violate people's rights in the Third
World, or enable corporations to do so. This time it's just closer to

For more on the legal basis of the WTO's attack, see also

RTMark's primary goal is to publicize corporate subversion of the
democratic process. To this end it acts as a clearinghouse for
anti-corporate projects.

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