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Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 05:58 GMT
Web fuels the protest
People's Fuel Lobby BBC
The homepage of the People's Fuel Lobby
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Protests about fuel prices in the UK may be taking place on the roads, but the campaign is also being fought on the information superhighway.

Websites, chat groups and discussion lists are all being used by fuel protesters to try to take their message across to a wider audience.

Protest websites
peoples-fuel-lobby.co.uk
egroups.com/group/ruf
pumpitdown.co.uk
fuelprotest.com
lowerfueltax.co.uk
downbrowndown.co.uk
fairfuel.co.uk
fairplayonfuel.com
enoughisenough.org.uk
boycott-the-pumps.com
nomorelies.co.uk
The websites are being used to co-ordinate protests, distribute campaigning materials such as leaflets and posters, ensure people have the latest news and keep the leaders of the various campaigns in touch.

A survey of the websites associated with the fuel protests reveals just what a broad church the movement has become, and how it is divided over tactics and what the wider aims of the protest should be.

The People's Fuel Lobby

The website run by the People's Fuel Lobby is at the heart of the fuel protests. The organisation is using it to pass on the latest information about the protest and counter any media stories.

It has dubbed the latest stories about the protests in the tabloid press "propaganda" and "slander", and decries any attempt to link the fuel protests with the British National Party.

The site emphasises that it is neither organising nor supporting any protests or direct action before the expiry of the 60-day deadline the government was given to come up with proposals to address their concerns.

The People's Fuel Lobby site also gives access to a Road User's Forum discussion list set up on the eGroup chat website. The number of messages posted to the list is gradually growing in volume as the date of the deadline approaches. It is currently generating around 200 messages per day.

Materials such as banner adverts for websites, leaflets, posters and car stickers are being passed around via this site.

Detailed discussion

Many of the people contributing to the discussions appear to be deeply suspicious of any government pronouncements about the protest.

Contributors to the list eagerly deconstruct any mention of the protests in the media.

The fuel protest is also making itself felt in Usenet discussion groups such as uk.transport, uk.rec.cars.4x4 and uk.politics.misc.

The discussion on Usenet is more about the knock-on effect of reducing duty on fuel, suggesting that those outside the main campaign discussion lists are not as convinced as the protesters about the effects of any cut in tax.

Many people contributing to campaign and Usenet discussions are bending the etiquette of e-mail by using lots of capital letters to emphasise THE POINT THEY ARE MAKING.

Many Net veterans regard capital letters as shouting and consider it terribly bad form to use them in messages. But as the issue of fuel prices raises such passions, the lapse of netiquette is probably forgivable.

Pump prices

The website at pumpitdown.co.uk details a new campaign by The People's Fuel Lobby. It calls on people to put their headlights on during the day to show that they too are concerned about the amount of duty they pay on fuel.

Many of the websites associated with the protests simply detail the wide differences in the price of fuel across the country. The site at fuelprotest.com has list of "greedy garages" cashing in on panic buying. Others, such as lowerfueltax.co.uk, simply list fuel prices across the country.

Other websites are asking people to take more radical steps. One site, called Down Brown Down, calls on businesses and home owners to put any money they would ordinarily pay to the government into a separate account and refuse to hand it over until the government gives in.

So far, only 200 people have signed the petition on the website which suggests few people are taking up its idea.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | UK
The blockade that grew
06 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Minister robust over fuel protests
07 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Brown rejects fuel tax demands
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