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Local site hosts protest

A San Diego Web site is organizing a protest of high gas prices in that city, the latest example of mainstream activism on the Net.

A San Diego Web site is organizing a protest of what it says are exorbitant gas prices in that city, the latest example of mainstream activism taking to the Net.

SanDiegoInsider.com, which provides content about the region, is focusing on the controversy, following published reports that gas prices in San Diego are 15 cents to 30 cents higher than in other parts of the country.

A regular feature of the site known as Hot Topic offers news stories and information about a recent San Diego County Board of Supervisors ordinance responding to gas prices. It also allows visitors to share their views on the issue and gives contact information to major gas companies.

An attorney for the oil companies said there was no evidence they had engaged in any illegal price fixing.

"We wanted to use the power of the Web to make it easy for San Diegans to protest," said Mark Forster, SanDiegoInsider.com's site manager. "As far as I know, this is the first online protest that has been organized around this issue."

It certainly isn't the most unusual, however. As reported last week, a group of Walt Disney fans organized an online protest to the rumored closing of a popular ride at Disney World in Florida.

And advocacy groups--protesting everything from human rights abuses to marijuana laws--have long used the Net as a cheap and quick way of getting their messages disseminated.

"It's pretty much standard that if you are involved in an advocacy cause, you should have a Web presence," said Paul Armentano, communications director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which has been online for three years. Armentano said the Net allows his organization to send an online newsletter to interested parties once a week as well as store archived editions that date back for years.

"That sort of information is really invaluable to activists and reformers," he said.