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[Nettime-nl] CNN en Indymedia
Eveline Lubbers on Fri, 2 Nov 2001 09:19:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] CNN en Indymedia

als follow-up op de controverse over de beelden
van juigende palestijnen een maand geleden, dit
opmerkelijke bericht uit Wired. Het woord Indymedia
is in de chatrooms van CNN verboden.


CNN / INDY Dispute Festers At Wired.News (english)

by Randy Reprint 4:13pm Thu Nov 1 '01
reprinted from wired news at:


  IndyMedia in a Snit With CNN By Farhad Manjoo

  2:00 a.m.  Nov. 1, 2001 PST

  To listen to Aaron Schlosser, a high school student in Andover, New 
Hampshire,  the whole thing began very innocently a couple weeks ago: A 
people were hanging  out in an online chat room on CNN's website, and 
one of them happened to type  in the word "indymedia" -- referring to the 
news website run by the Independent Media  Center -- the message didn't go 

Schlosser heard about this apparent ban, and he decided to see if it was 
true.  Using two browser windows, he logged in to CNN's chat room with two 
different  nicknames. Schlosser wrote messages into one window and 
monitored what showed  up in the other. And sure enough, when he typed in 
"indymedia" -- or "indy media" or even "1ndym3d14" -- he noticed that his 
messages weren't being sent to everyone.  Apparently, CNN was "censoring" 
its chat rooms, Schlosser decided, because -- as he  later wrote in an 
article that appeared on the Indymedia 
site  (http://www.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=79356) -- the cable 
channel wanted  to "protect its interests from the likes of nasty, 
decentralized, non-profit organizations  like the Independent Media Center 
that are composed of regular, working people."

To hear CNN tell the story, however, the folks at Indymedia are throwing 
around dangerous  words like "censorship" and "bias" without being entirely 
truthful.  Yes, CNN has banned the word "indymedia" from its chat room, 
according to Edna Johnson,  a representative for the company. But that's 
because Indymedia fans were spamming other  people in the chat rooms, 
constantly telling chatters that they should get their news  from the 
independent site.  "We did it after many, many, many incidents of 
advertising," Johnson said. "CNN (chat rooms)  do not permit any 
advertising -- so that means if users repeatedly try to advertise in 
our  chat rooms, we will block that, and the warning is posted on our site."

The notice Johnson is talking about is pretty plain. "No advertising of any 
kind,  including nonprofit organizations, is permitted," it said.  But she 
said it is generally enforced only when the advertisers are egregious 
in  their plugs -- when their comments add nothing to the conversation, 
when they become  an annoyance, when the messages smell like spam.

"For example, if you were in a CNN chat room and you said, 'Go to Wired 
News and read  all the latest Internet information' -- that's advertising, 
right?" she said. "And if  you began doing that repeatedly, or if everyone 
at Wired did that, we would definitely  block it."

"Now, let's say someone said, 'Did you read such and such article in Wired 
News?' And  someone else said, 'Yes, that was interesting," or, 'I loved 
that.' Now, that's not  advertising, obviously, that's a discussion."

So did Indymedia spam CNN?

Not in any organized way, according to Ryan Giuliani, a member of the 
organization in  San Francisco: "We don't have time for that. If you want 
to say that people who are  core organizers ever have the time to go to the 
CNN website chat room and put ads on  there, that's not possible."

He allows that, perhaps, people who are fans of Indymedia have talked up 
the site on  CNN. But even if that did occur, Giuliani still thinks that 
what CNN is doing now  amounts to censorship.

"CNN is running an open political forum," he said, "and on an open forum on 
the Web,  the whole point is linking. On Indymedia, we don't have any 
problem with linking to  CNN stories. We think that the information should 
be free. CNN doesn't think that.  Their profit model is based on the fact 
that they control information and control  the flow of it."

This is not the first dust-up between CNN and Indymedia.   When CNN 
footage of some Palestinians celebrating the Sept. 11 terrorist  attacks 
soon after they occurred, an Indymedia reader posted a message to the 
site  alleging that the video had actually been shot in 1991, and that CNN 
was being unfair  to Palestinians. (Indymedia allows anyone to post to its 

Though it was vehemently denied by CNN, that allegation seemed at least 
plausible to  many people who -- for whatever reason -- distrust the 
channel, and all over the world,  people began quoting it as fact.

Understandably, CNN wasn't pleased with Indymedia. Their head of public 
relations, in  fact, sent several foaming-mouthed letters to Giuliani about 
the incident -- which leads  Giuliani to believe that the chat ban is due 
in part to the Palestinian-footage incident.   "(Nigel Pritchard, CNN's 
spokesman) sends us harassing e-mail yelling at us in these  completely 
broken sentences," Giuliani said. "In addition, he continually called 
my  house at 7 a.m. and he was just going crazy yelling at us. So CNN and 
Indymedia, it's  not like we've never heard of each other before -- and 
that's why to us it seems wild  that this is a coincidence."

But CNN's Johnson flatly denied the connection. "That's not accurate," she 
said,  explaining that it was a routine thing to ban people who solicited 
in the chat rooms.  "We would do it with any product or organization," she 

And indeed, it appears they have: After Schlosser mentioned in his 
Indymedia article  that it was permissible to name other media sites in the 
CNN's chat rooms, CNN seems  to have banned mention of those sites as 

Though Johnson could not confirm this had occurred, a test by Wired News 
showed that  both "ABCnews" and "Foxnews" were also verboten.

Schlosser thinks this occurred because these other companies represent 
CNN's competition.  But he said he doubts that mention of other 
corporations would ever be banned by an  advertiser-hungry site like CNN.

"Something tells me that CNN wouldn't be so quick to ban such a major 
corporation as  ExxonMobil," he said.


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