The days of screaming activists marching with signs in hand to voice their displeasure at a particular politician are changing rapidly – just ask Vic Toews. Canada's public safety minister was the latest in a string of public-policy lightning rods to feel the wrath of Anonymous, a loose coalition of web-based activists who went after Toews for his overly vociferous promoting of the government's online surveillance bill. ... Graeme Hirst, a professor of computational linguistics at the University of Toronto, says that while Anonymous does share some properties of older protest movements, sometimes its motives can be called into question. 'It's a kind of civil disobedience, so we can immediately make analogies to the Civil Rights movement of the '60s,' Hirst said in an interview. 'On the other hand, it's not entirely clear that Anonymous is as altruistically motivated as those protests were.' ... Hirst viewed theJanuary showdown as 'the first legitimate online protest' that was really only about the online world and suggested that the key to its success was that it was organized not by individuals but by organizations — and ones with clout. ... Another apparently successful online campaign was the Cost of Knowledge protest started by an international group of researchers in January, following a blog post by Cambridge University math professor Timothy Gowers.
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