NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 79 December 19, 2001
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Is Your Computer Secure?
More on Worrisome Perceptions About Online Activism
About NetAction Notes

Is Your Computer Secure?

Information technology is increasingly important to the mission of many nonprofit organizations. As our reliance on technology grows, so does our need for computer security. NetAction is conducting a survey of computer security practices in nonprofit organizations so that we can do a better job of educating organizations about computer security and assisting organizations in improving their security practices.

Please take a few minutes to answer the survey questions. The survey is at: Please click this link now (or paste this URL into your Web browser).

Your individual responses are confidential, and you will not be asked to provide any identifying information. The overall survey results will be reported in NetAction Notes, and will help us prepare new educational materials and content for the Virtual Activist training curriculum.

We used Zoomerang, a survey clearinghouse, to create our survey, and are distributing it to our NetAction Notes subscribers and relevant lists. We encourage you to forward this to colleagues in other nonprofit organizations who may be interested in participating in the survey.

Thank you for your help!

More on Worrisome Perceptions About Online Activism

In the last issue of NetAction Notes we reported that the UCLA Internet Project's second annual survey of Internet user behavior and attitudes revealed that fewer people see the Internet as an effective tool for political action.

The report prompted some thoughtful comments from two of our longtime readers. With their permission, we are sharing their comments.

Debra Cash wrote:

"I think in terms of overall electoral political effectiveness this may be true (after all, we got our President *appointed* by the Supreme Court!) and it would be very interesting to see what the folks at Working Assets etc. who send out mass emails to Congresspeople, against Ashcroft etc. think about this. I gather there is some real disagreement among progressives about whether emails and email petitions to political officials make a difference; I would like to see a systematic analysis of the response to these as compared to phone calls, regular mail etc. (Obviously, if they are not going to listen, no numbers of emails will help.)

"However, if you frame the question in terms of activist *campaigns* (abortion rights, globalism, and my own area, fighting coercive publishing contracts) I think that the Internet (or actually, email) among interested persons involved in the campaign is indispensable. This spans education, logistics and activity such as petitions. Perhaps some of the problems with [the survey] statistics was the way the question was worded?"

Richard Petersen wrote:

"As for Online Activism - perhaps the issue has less to do with the Internet and more to do with the general sense that elected officials (and the media generally) are bought and paid for by those who fund them - and that that is the fundamental reason that people feel little power. Between the corporations and the politicians - no one in power or the media really cares what most Americans are going through. Beyond this thought there is a lot of organizing going on online - from indymedia to the numerous email lists that operate below the horizon. Beyond those who have found the Internet an invaluable tool for keeping up on international news sources, the vast majority of Americans appear to be content to watch flag wearing news readers dish out pro war propaganda. I am hopeful, but it will take time. The kids growing up in school now are comfortable with using online sources and activism may be the real hope for the future - especially if the continuing clampdowns on freedom spark a backlash in young people."

The comments from both Debra and Richard underscore an important aspect of online activism: the difference between its use as an organizing and outreach tool to get information to supporters and colleagues, and its use as a tool for communicating with elected officials. In our Virtual Activist training, NetAction addresses this distinction and cautions activists against relying on email communication with elected officials. If a recent New York Times report is accurate, there is now some documentation of the ineffectiveness of email as a tool for communicating with elected officials. In a Dec. 13, 2001 article entitled "Email Gets the Cold Shoulder in Congress," the Times reports:

"Ill equipped to cope with the deluge of correspondence that the Internet has brought, many Congressional offices no longer disclose e-mail addresses to the public. And both staff members and lobbyists say that e-mail is far less successful than faxes, phone calls or letters in reaching and influencing legislators."

Online access to the NY Times requires (free) registration. The complete article is at:

About NetAction Notes

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