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Firmage steps away from USWeb/CKS

The USWeb founder, who's promoting the idea that modern technology stems from aliens, will leave his role of chief strategist to avoid generating negative publicity for the company.

Joe Firmage has left his position as chief strategist of USWeb/CKS to continue advancing his belief that much of the world's recent technological advancement derives from alien intelligence, in an effort to avoid generating negative publicity for a company he founded.

Last week, Firmage met with chief executive Robert Shaw to communicate his decision, according to USWeb/CKS spokesman Geoff Kerr. Firmage will remain with the company in an undetermined capacity.

Firmage said USWeb founder on quest for ET truth he was not pressured to resign. "Anticipating inability on the part of the press to think and report in shades of gray rather than simply black and white led me to propose to Robert Shaw and Toby Corey that I step aside," Firmage told CNET News.com.

"I love the company far too much to see it take any collateral flack from my publishing," he said. "I will continue to be involved with the management team, providing advice and insight in the areas that I have in the past, but will assume no public role in the company going forward."

Firmage had previously stepped aside as chief executive of that company for the same reasons, shortly before USWeb completed a December merger with CKS. USWeb/CKS provides Internet consulting services, helping such customers as Apple Computer, Harley Davidson, and Levi Strauss design a Web strategy, set a marketing plan, and facilitate e-commerce transactions.

Firmage's goal is to distance the $2.071 billion Santa Clara, California-based company from unwelcome attention stemming from his campaign to promote his theories, spelled out on his own Web site. "Joe has always said that if his [outside] work interfered, he'd have to put the company's interests first and his second," according to Kerr.

Firmage previously told CNET News.com he's already spent close to $3 million advertising an upcoming book in major national newspapers and on National Public Radio. He's also begun working with several television documentary producers.

The book, called The Truth, details his theories about extraterrestrial influence and the future of humans in space, and his campaign has started to drive considerable traffic to his Web site, where he recently pre-published. The Truth will be out in print form early this year.

Because "The subject of UFOs has been ridiculed with a proactive campaign of government disinformation for decades," according to the 28-year-old Firmage, he is often labeled Silicon Valley's version of the X-Files' Fox Mulder.

The company's stock closed trading Friday up .6875 at 30.0625.