Collactive: Online Political Swarming
December 18th, 2006

Earlier in 2006, Aran Reshef and Amir Hirsh folded their unique anti-spam service, Blue Frog, due to a massive cyber-attack that was following them across the Internet.
Blue Frog worked by automating the provisions in the CAN-SPAM Act that allows a spamming victim to send a request for removal to the spammer’s website or email address. Blue Frog software would pool all of the requests and send them at once. Or, if the spammers did not have an email address, then they would auto-submit the requests in order forms at the spammer’s marketing sites. This would often take down sites, as there were usually hundreds of thousands of requests to be removed.

Apparently, this rather annoyed a certain spammer named “PharmaMaster“, who unleashed a zombie army of distributed servers that pulled down services like Tucows and Typepad, on a hunt for Blue frog websites and blogs online. Reshef and Hirsch decided to pull the plug on Blue Frog before any more services were harmed.

However, recently Wired reports that Reshef and Hirsch have launched new service, call Collactive, that aims to use the same swarming tactics for political activism. From the Collactive site:

We believe people have the right to voice their opinion on the Internet regardless of technical skills. We founded Collactive to bring the power of the Web 2.0 revolution to everyone. Our goal is to empower people to take action on any web site, from the largest social network down to the smallest blog.
Using our patent-pending technology, our customers are transforming their community members into online advocacy experts. We work together with leading marketing firms to help a select number of early customers advance their goals online.

To see our solution in action, please visit WorldCoolers.org.

On the WorldCoolers.org site, you can download the “Collactive Desktop Application” (windows only at this time). This application feeds pop-up alerts to the desktop on issues relating the political activist group. Then it gives instant action options (write a letter to congress, call a politician, etc). This is similar to MoveOn.org campaign activism. Except that alerts and options for action come directly to the desktop (or through a firefox browser plugin, or adding a feed to Yahoo or Google personal pages). The system also gives participants an easy way to submit news stories that they think the campaign should act upon.

Some of these online activism ideas were originally explored by different authors in the book, Extreme Democracy. The Civic Space system has also existed for a couple of years now as an open source online activism tool set.

In the US, there is political backlash from all of this Internet activism in the form of politicians starting to ignore mass-online activism campaigns. They tend to prioritize incoming messages based upon how easy or difficult they are to compose and send. This means that precomposed emails and online petitions are often discounted, or given less weight by politicians.

However, concentrated efforts can also be pointed at the people and organizations who fund and donate money to politicians. This will probably be the next step in online activism. Combining consumer activism with political activism. The Internet medium, and collaborative activist research makes it easier than ever to “follow the money”. And, if politicians ignore or discount electronic political activism, perhaps corporations and political organizations will not. Especially those that stand to lose money when coordinated campaigns are able to pinpoint pressure at the sources of money in politics.


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