5 Ways Activists Have Used BitTorrent to Promote Their Cause

Activists have taken to Facebook and web 2.0, but relatively few have embraced the power of the torrent community.


While torrents are mostly known for spreading copyrighted content like movies, music, and software, many social and environmental activists have found the protocol to be a perfect match for their goal to spread information relating to their cause.

Here are five interesting and/or successful uses of BitTorrent to spread a message:

Brave New Films – Using torrents as one aspect of outreach

Robert Greenwald has become synonymous with media activism. He personally funds films like Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalsm and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, and then seeks to allow as many people as possible to view the film.

To do this, he employs any number of schemes: he sends the films to schools, he prices the DVD’s around $10, he organizes free screenings all over the place, and he posts the films on bitTorrent for free download. Brave New Films is the type of studio that you really should try to support. All the profits from the movies go towards making new ones.

Most recently, Greenwald aided Michael Moore in making the film Slacker Uprising available for free online.

PETA‘s Bad Idea – Spam Torrent Sites With Inaccurate Titles

PETA India posted a while back to rally its members to begin using bitTorrent to spread its campaign videos, like “Meat Your Meat,” “Chew on This,” and “Skin Trade.” PETA notes that they do not copyright any of their material, so it is free to share in any form.

The weird part? They continue to suggest that members intentionally mislabel torrents to trick people into watching the videos. “To get more views, change the names of your videos to something more appealing, such as the title of 50 Cent’s latest single,” reads the site. Somehow I’d imagine this tactic not being too effective.

No Pasaran! – Direct-to-torrent film release

A new documentary called “No Pasaran!” that follows the radical protest against a methanol shipping facility in Azov, Russia in 2003 has been made available for free through bitTorrent this week.

The film, 73 minutes long, focuses on the interactions between radical activists and residents in the town. After months of protests and direct actions, the film climaxes with 7,000 people marching through the town of just 90,000. While the goals of the activists were long-met, the film seeks to inspire others to affect similar change in their towns. So far it only has one seeder, so check it out and give ’em some help.

The Corporation – Adding a torrent after the film already succeeded

The director of The Corporation realized after the film had made a splash at film festivals and theaters worldwide that there was potential to allow even more people to see the film. Soon, an official copy was released as a torrent and was embraced and spread rapidly.

“Our mission is to bring films to audiences, audiences to action and action to outcome,” said  the director. “We know that millions of people have seen and been moved by The Corporation. We’d like to build on this momentum.”

Progressive & Socially-Aware Trackers

While many of the torrents featured on the Progressive Torrent Community and One Big Torrent are available on the larger sites, they offer small, tight-knit communities and are one-stop shops for all media relating to “social justice, independence, liberty, economy, environment, humanity, culture, ecology, history, current affairs/news, philosophy, science and higher consciousness.” They’re both certainly worth checking out.

Photo Credits (in order): RocketRaccoon under CC license; courtesy of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price website; ajschwegler under CC license; from media files from No Pasaran!’s torrent; courtesy of the Corporation’s website; screen capture.

1 thought on “5 Ways Activists Have Used BitTorrent to Promote Their Cause”

  1. Hi, Great article! I agree with Activists using technology to get their point/voice across, but I don’t agree with the way PETA re-labels their file names. I think consumers (once called “the little people”) have been waiting a long time to take back some control from corporations – and the good news it, it’s only going to become easier, faster and more mainstream. Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films is a great idea, and one I support. Catch me on twitter; http://twitter.com/jjjodiez. Rgds Jodie.

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