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Voices of the Occupations: 5 New Media Sources Fighting Against Censorship and For OWS

As Congress debates new laws that could dramatically impact independent media, we look at 5 invaluable sources beating the mainstream media at covering Occupy.

"The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires." --Chris Willis and Shayne Bowman, We Media: How Audiences Are Shaping The Future Of News and Information (2003)

Given the scenes in the video below, is it any wonder the Protect IP Act was brought to Congress this week?

PIPA, which was taken to the Senate, and its House of Representatives counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act, were ostensibly introduced to protect copyright holders in the television, movie and music industries. But as Christina Gagnier explained in the Huffington Post, these two bills are “the stuff of legal nightmares”:  

We end up with cases parsing what "infringing activities" means. We end up with panicked clients, individuals and companies, contacting attorneys after their websites are affected by such pieces of legislation, normally people who intended no ill-will, malice or "infringing activities" per se. We end up with a handful of cases that will climb the appellate ranks and one that perhaps will see its day in the Supreme Court. Essentially, we end up waiting for lawyers and the courts to clean up the mess.

Think Gagnier’s analysis through a little further and it’s not hard to imagine, say, the University of California-Davis going to court to shut down video showing how its campus police treats seated protesters. Or authorities in Oakland cracking down on sites like Livestream and UStream every time somebody captures a police action, or the Bloomberg administration in NYC blocking videos like the one above by filmmaker Casey Neistat, using the “infringing activities” clause.

With the Occupy Wall Street movement at the two-month mark, and the stories in and around it growing alongside the movement, social media hasn’t just become an organizational tool for protesters. It’s become the means for a new group of storytellers to relay the views from the front line more directly – some would say, more honestly – than traditional newsrooms. And if the acts of press suppression in New York November 14 are any indication, the audience for this new batch of media outlets is only about to grow. Here are five new voices of the occupations that you should be watching.

1. @OakFoSho,Occupy Oakland

Outside of the original OWS protests in New York City, Oakland has garnered the most national attention, thanks in no small part to the actions of the city’s police department. More than 5,000 people watched the OPD raid the occupation after its November 2 general strike, via Oakland resident Spencer Mills’ Motorola smartphone.

“It was intense,” Mills told the  San Jose Mercury News. “I was just standing there with a camera.”

Over the course of that evening, Mills not only followed the police movements (noting how many outside agencies the city of Oakland brought in to arrest protesters), but interviewed occupiers to get their reasons for participating, hours after local newscasts left the scene. In a testament to the real-time effectiveness of his broadcast, when Mills told the audience he needed new batteries for his phone, various viewers showed up to help keep his signal going. He’s been a broadcasting fixture ever since, including another early-morning raid by police late Sunday night – which was simulcast at one point by Al-Jazeera English, prompting the unofficial nickname, “Oakland’s own Edison Carter.”  In a sign of the times, Mills was even invited to take part in an Oakland Tribune panel discussion on coverage of the occupation.

2. The Other 99,Occupy Wall Street

This site began as a newsgathering resource from Zuccotti Park, and runs on donations, but it’s already blossomed to include various platforms, including a newsletter and videos from other occupations.