FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

- Version 5, June 2000 -

0. About this FAQ

This FAQ was produced by the McInformation Network. It attempts to answer every question ever asked McSpotlight. http://www.mcspotlight.org/

If you have any questions not answered here, please email us.

Contents

0. About this FAQ

1. WHAT IS 'McSPOTLIGHT' ?

2. WHY WAS McSPOTLIGHT CREATED ?

3. WHO ARE THE McINFORMATION NETWORK ?

4. REMIND ME, WHAT IS McLIBEL ?

5. WHY WAS McDONALD'S SINGLED OUT ?

6. WON'T THEY TRY TO SHUT DOWN THE SITE ?

7. I WOULD LIKE TO HELP, WHAT CAN I DO ?

8. HOW CAN I STAY INFORMED ?

1. WHAT IS 'McSPOTLIGHT' ?

Who created it?
McSpotlight is a website on the Internet. It was created by the McInformation Network (see below).

The site is dedicated to providing uncensored information on the infamous McLibel trial, the fast-food chain McDonald's and other multinational corporations.

When was it launched?
McSpotlight was launched on the 16th Feb 1996, in London, Chicago, Helsinki and Auckland. See the report of the launch for pictures of the McLibel defendants activating the site, using a laptop connected to the Internet via a mobile phone, outside a McDonald's restaurant in Central London.

Who can see it? Where is it actually located?
The site can be accessed from anywhere in the world, by any of the 160 million people with net access. The host server for the site is currently located in the Netherlands.

How big is it? How often is it updated?
At the launch in 1996, McSpotlight contained 1,300 individual files or 35mb of information. The site was updated several times a day for the first two years and by the end of the trial contained a staggering 21,000 files (120mb). Now the trial is over the site is not updated so often. But new press articles, campaign reports and so on are added every couple of weeks.

The Debating Room is still packed with people from all over the world discussing various issues raised by the trial and the site. As of June 2000, it receives about 40 submissions per day.

What information is on McSpotlight?
The information includes: the subject of the libel trial - the 'What's Wrong with McDonald's' leaflet (and translations of the new version into many different languages), the full court transcripts (313 days) of the McLibel trial, the closing submissions from Plaintiff and Defendants, daily reports of the closing speeches, approx 90 witness statements, scores of other documents about the case, company publications, scientific reports, newspaper articles, cartoons, extracts from books, transcripts of TV and video appearances, plays, internal company memos, similar campaigns from around the world, a 55 minute video documentary about, and much more.

In The Issues the information has been split up into relevant categories - Nutrition, Advertising, Employment, Environment, Animal Welfare, Free Speech, Multinationals & Global Trade, Capitalism & the Alternatives, McDonald's International Expansion.

Much of the material has been the subject of previous legal action by McDonald's and has hence been out of circulation until resurfacing on McSpotlight.

Any special features? Other key features of McSpotlight are:

  • The Debating Room - A moderated discussion group within the website, providing a global forum for discussion and debate about McDonald's and all they stand for.
  • RealAudio Guided Tour - The McLibel defendants take you around the site, pointing out the key pages and features.
  • Exclusive interviews- With the McLibel defendants aswell as key figures from the trial.
  • Video Clips (Quicktime Movies) - Including a key piece of evidence from the trial linking McDonald's with rainforest destruction.
  • Guided Tour of McDonald's own website - McSpotlight takes you round McDonald's site (using any Frames-compatible browser) pointing out inaccuracies and untruths.
  • The McQuiz- Satricial quiz using quotes from McDonald's executives to emphasise the company's immoral strategy and attitude.

How do I find what I want?
In order to help locate specific information, McSpotlight obtained an extemely powerful search engine provided for free by Muscat. Unfortunatly complications resulting from adding the transcripts to the site caused the indexing software to stop working and nobody got round to fixing it for 3 years! A new search engine is now available and once more you are able to search the site with ease.

Which are the most popular pages?
Currently the most popular pages are:

  • The Debating Room
  • The McLibel Section
  • The Beyond McDonald's section

    How many visitors does it receive?
    It is difficult to calculate the number of visitors to the site. Most web sites simply publish the total number of 'hits' , however these figures are completely meaningless without careful interpretation. Between the launch 16/2/96 and 31/5/97 (15 1/2 months) the total number of hits to all of the McSpotlight sites (main server and mirrors) is conservatively estimated to have been at least 12 million, thats an average of about 800,000 hits per month. The total number of visitors in that period is calculated to have been in excess of 315,000. During that period, at least 33,000 people have read the orginal factsheet complained of by McDonald's.

    McDonald's themselves accessed the site 1,700 times in its first week alone. Current access to the site is currently around 1.5 million hits per month and climbing which suggests that after all these years the site is as popular as ever!

    Has it had much coverage in the 'old' media?
    As far as we are aware, McSpotlight has received the most press coverage of any website in the world. Some examples are: USA Today (front cover with photo), NBC TV, Channel 4 (Website of the Week), ITV, BBC1 (prime time news), BBC2 (Most Informative Website), BBC Newsnight, BBC World Service, The International Herald Tribune, The Independent (with photo), The Guardian, The Observer (Website of the Week), Daily Express, Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Sun Times, Denver Post, The Australian, Undercurrents, Times of India (inc. cartoon), Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), LA Weekly, Daily Telegraph, BBC Radio 4, Planete Internet (France), Canal Plus (France), Sat-1 (Germany).

    Many of these press articles are available in the press cuttings section.

    Why has it attracted so much press?
    Apart from the sheer unadulterated brilliance of the site's construction, design and layout, :-) there can be little doubt that the main 'draw' is the content of its 24,000+ files. Time and time again people have observed that this is a site that goes into real depth about real issues that affect real people.

    The Guardian said "It is claimed to be 'the most comprehensive source of information on a multinational ever assembled' - and that doesn't sound like an exaggeration". 

    The fact that it is closely involved with one of the most extraordinary battles of modern times has certainly helped increase coverage. The McLibel Trial revolves around the question of the right of ordinary people to stand up to corporate censorship, and many press articles have picked up on McSpotlight taking this battle into new territory - the unstoppable and uncensorable Internet.

    What about copyright?
    Copyright? What's that? We provide this information because it needs to be available. Much of the information is copyright but we choose to ignore that fact. We are quite happy for the information on McSpotlight to be copied and used by other people. However, whether you choose to ignore the copyright of the newspapers, photographers, authors etc is up to you.

    Isn't McSpotlight biased?
    Er? The McInformation Network is biased - obviously, because we know we're right ;-) - but we have tried to provide full documentation from both sides of McLibel trial. If you think that both sides of the debate are not covered, then please use your favourite search engine, read newspapers or turn on the TV for unlimited amounts of the industry/state/establishment side.


    2. WHY WAS McSPOTLIGHT CREATED ?

    What are you trying to achieve?
    McSpotlight was created for several reasons:
    • to provide a free, globally-accessible library of information about McDonald's for use by students, journalists, researchers, parents, politicians and anyone wanting to find out the truth about McDonald's, McLibel and multinationals.
    • to support the heroic efforts of campaigners around the world attempting to expose the realities behind the glossy public images of multinational corporations.

    • to show McDonald's and the world that legal action and bullying by big business in an attempt to censor and silence critics (as in the McLibel trial) will not be accepted, and to show that such attempts can only fail now that the Internet provides an open and uncensored forum for the public.

    • to demonstrate to other progressive campaigners that the Internet provides a new forum that need not rely on the attention of the traditional media - which invariably fails to fully cover progressive campaigns.

    You really think you can close down McDonald's?
    McSpotlight was not created in the belief that it would succeed in driving McDonald's out of business. However, people may at least begin to use the principles of 'ethical consumerism' when deciding what to buy, and companies may react by cleaning up their acts rather than getting their public relations departments to 'gloss-over' the reality. Ultimately however, we hope that people will question and challenge the entire system which puts profits before people, nature and the environment and organise now in order to seek better alternatives.


    3. WHO ARE THE McINFORMATION NETWORK ?

    Where do the volunteers come from?
    The McInformation Network is a dynamic team of volunteers from all over the world. They have nothing much more in common than their dedication to breaking the chains of censorship by multi-nationals and those imposed on the traditional media by their advertisers. It is not possible to give a figure for how many poeople have worked on, or still work on McSpotlight because people come and go, offering their skills and time whenever they feel they can.

    What are their collective aims?
    The McInformation Network is dedicated to compiling and disseminating factual, accurate, up-to-date (as far as is possible) information, and encouraging debate, about the workings, policies and practices of McDonald's and other Multinational Corporations and all they stand for. The Network also highlights opposition to McDonald's and other multinaitonal companies.

    Haven't they got anything better to do?
    All the volunteers are generally involved in other progressive issues such as human rights, workers rights, green issues, political and constitutional reform, animal rights and veganism. All the volunteers do have a life beyond McSpotlight - when time allows ;-)

    How much did it cost to set up?
    As all of the equipment was donated, and everybody worked for free, McSpotlight was initially set up without a single penny being spent. The continued maintainance of the site does of course entail phone bills and other costs - some of which are met by donations from the public and the sale of fund raising merchandise.

    What is their relationship to McLibel?
    The Network is autonomous from, but supportive of, the McLibel defendants and the McLibel Support Campaigns in the UK and elsewhere; who are, in turn, giving their support to McSpotlight.

    How can I get in touch?
    To contact the McInformation Network:


    4. REMIND ME, WHAT IS McLIBEL ?

    How did it all start? Who are the McLibel 2?
    In 1990 McDonald's sued Helen Steel and Dave Morris for allegedly producing and distributing a factsheet entitled "What's Wrong with McDonald's" which criticised almost all aspects of the company's policies and practices.

    What was in the factsheet?

    • Multinationals and Global Trade- The connection between multinational companies like McDonald's, cash crops and starvation in the third world.
    • Environment - The responsibility of corporations such as McDonald's for damage to the environment, including destruction of rainforests.
    • Recycling and Waste - The wasteful and harmful effects of the mountains of packaging used by McDonald's and other companies.
    • Nutrition - McDonald's promotion and sale of food with a low fibre, high fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content, and the links between a diet of this type and the major degenerative diseases in western society, including heart disease and cancer.
    • Advertising and Promotions - McDonald's exploitation of children by its use of advertisements and gimmicks to sell unhealthy products.
    • Animal Welfare - The barbaric way that animals are reared and > slaughtered to supply products for McDonald's.
    • Employment - The lousy conditions that workers in the catering industry are forced to work under, and the low wages paid by McDonald's. McDonald's hostility towards trade unions.

    How long has it been going? Who's paying?
    McLibel is now the longest trial, of any kind, in English history, and has stimulated world-wide publicity and protests. As no legal aid is available in libel cases, Helen and Dave were forced to defend themselves, funded entirely by donations from the public. They have spent about 35,000 ($50,000) on their defence while in the same period McDonald's is estimated to have spent 10,000,000 ($16,000,000) on the trial.

    What happens when the trial is over?
    The trial is over but the legal battle and the campaign continues. Despite McDonald's 'victory', 'respected' industry analysts and legal representatives commented that the whole McLibel case and the media coverage has been a complete disaster for McDonald's and a victory for the activist movement. The reversal, at appeal, of many of the judges findings added further to McDonald's discomfort. The appeal process continues and whatever the final outcome, McDonald's will have failed to silence their critics. All the evidence will continue to be available on McSpotlight and will enable anyone who cares, to look at the evidence and judge the facts for themselves.

    Where can I get more information?
    If you would like more information about the McLibel trial, there is of course, much more about the case on the McSpotlight site itself.

    You might also like to read the Press Backgrounder produced by the McLibel Support Campaign.


    5. WHY WAS McDONALD'S SINGLED OUT?

    McDonald's was 'singled out' because, despite an annual global advertising budget of around $2 billion dollars, they have made every effort to stifle public criticism - from campaigners to trade unions, disgruntled workers to customers, and from the media.

    Over the years McDonald's has bullied their critics with threats of legal action and nobody has stood up to them. Please see Other McLibels for details of other organisations they have sued in the past. So when Helen and Dave (the McLibel defendants) refused to be intimidated, McDonald's made a major mistake in taking the case to court.

    Once at court, huge amounts of information about McDonald's business practices became available to the public for the first time. It is because of the availability of this information that the creation of McSpotlight was possible and it is the reason why the site in centred on McDonald's.

    Another key reason that McDonald's has been singled out is that, because of the nature of the food industry, they come under criticism from many different campaigning groups - nutritionists, environmentalists, trade unionists, animal welfare campaigners and so on. In this way, they symbolise a wide range of different injustices, abuses and exploitations that are prevalent in the modern world.

    They have also pioneered many business practices that have been taken up by others, and have come to represent a symbol of the way that society is going - 'McDonaldisation'.

    Examples of others corporations that are as bad as McDonald's can be found with very little effort, but there are few on which so much information has been unearthed.

    Who else gets the McSpotlight treatment?
    Despite this, McSpotlight is expanding to cover other companies and industries. These are to be found in the Beyond McDonald's section of McSpotlight.

    Currently included are;

    • Pharmaceutical Industry - Pfizer, Hoechst AG, Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Boots
    • Tobacco Industry - Philip Morris, RJR-Nabisco, British American Tobacco, Brown & Williamson, American Brands
    • Baby Milk industry - Nestle, Wyeth, Cow&Gate, Milupa
    • Cosmetics, Toiletries & Household Cleaners industry - Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt & Colman, Colgate-Palmolive, SmithKline Beecham
    • Oil industry - Shell Oil, Exxon / Esso, British Petroleum, Texaco
    • Others - Fosters, Mitsubishi, Burger King, Eastman Kodak, PepsiCo Inc.


    6. WON'T THEY TRY TO SHUT THE SITE DOWN ?

    McDonald's has shown that it can't stand criticism from any quarter and (mainly in the UK which has particularly draconian libel laws) has threatened legal action against a very wide range of national and local media, trade unions, conservationists and animal rights groups and others (even a theatre group). See Other McLibels.

    The success (i.e. influence and profits) of the corporation is based almost solely on a carefully manufactured image, created by billions of advertising dollars. They react swiftly to destroy any threat to that image and would clearly love to destroy McSpotlight - but they know of no way to do it.

    What are you doing to stop them?
    The nature of the Internet makes successful censorship very difficult. The McInformation Network has took a number of steps from the very begining to foil any attempt at shutting McSpotlight down.

    • The server that hosts the master site was located in the Netherlands where it was believed pressure on the host would be greatly resisted.
    • Duplicates of the entire site (mirrors) were located in a variety of different countries, including the U.S. If any one of those were shut down, other hosts had already pledged to provide replacement servers.
    • McSpotlight also provided a downloadable, compressed 'kit' of the site so that people can keep their own personal copy of the information. Of course the size of the site grow rapidly and made the idea of a downloadable copy rather unworkable but the core information could be downloaded.

    The mirror sites are now no longer used. It would be interesting at this stage to see what McDonald's could do to shut down the site. Any attempt to shut down McSpotlight would result in massive media attention and outrage by the Internet community and concerned people everywhere. After all, it is obviously of vital importance that multinationals (which now dominate our lives and the world's economy) be subject to criticism and challenge.

    What about legal action against the creators?
    McDonald's, or any of the other companies exposed by McSpotlight, might be tempted to use legal action against individual volunteers of the McInformation Network.

    Even if their legal action was successful, it would not help them in their attempts to silence McSpotlight since no individual or group of individuals are central to the running of the site. Better still, the publicity for McSpotlight would be highly beneficial to our cause, and the bad publicity for the company involved would make such action highly foolish.

    There are many McInformation Network volunteers who would dearly love the opportunity to further expose the truth about McDonald's or other companies in court - but we doubt that any company would be stupid enough to provide the chance.


    7. I WOULD LIKE TO HELP, WHAT CAN I DO?

    Can I help to promote the site?
    Please help publicise McSpotlight. By doing so you will be helping to raise awareness about the site and therefore increase the number of visitors who get to learn about the McLibel case and the related issues. (Images can be taken directly from the site and volunteers are available for interviews.)

    You could nominate McSpotlight for any on-line awards that you come across, or submit our URL to web sites than maintain lists of 'hot sites' etc.

    You could add something to your email signature file. We suggest the following lines;

      # WHATS's WRONG WITH McDONALD'S ? judge for yourself !
      # M c S P O T L I G H T http://www.McSpotlight.org/
      # Qu'est qui cloche chez McD's? www.McSpotlight.org
      # Cual es el problema con McD's? www.McSpotlight.org
      # (Spread the word, please add these lines to your .sig)

    Can I add a link to the site?
    If you have your own web homepages, you can add a link to McSpotlight, and perhaps your own comments about the site. You are welcome to use our logo or banner to provide graphics for the link.

    What about the kit?
    We no longer provide a downloadable version of the site. It was a brilliant strategy at the time and was used to make sure that everybody knew that McSpotlight could not be shut down. The site is now far too large for a downloadable kit and we feel that in the unlikely event that McSpotlight gets closed down we can simple contact those people who offered mirror sites in the past and quickly get McSpotlight back online. We are still unstoppable.

    Do you want another mirror site?
    We no longer feel we need mirror sites to stop McDonald's shutting us down but if you have an ultra fast, super reliable and permanent connection to the Internet, and you run a web server, you could provide McSpotlight with a mirror site to help reduce the load on the main site. We would need access to cgi-bins etc.

    I can do xxxx, can I help?
    If you have a skill that might be of use to McSpotlight - such as Java, CGI or html programming, graphic design, or the ability to translate documents into non-English languages - you could contact us and offer your help.

    If you have any information on McDonald's or any other company that might be of use to us, or you come across articles or reports that have been published about the issues involved in the case, you could send it to us.

    What about non-Internet action?
    Of course, it would be great if you could also get involved at the street level by helping to disseminate the leaflet (there is a pledge form on the site which can be used to make contact with campaigners in your area). Also there is a Campaigning Resource page where material to help your campaign more effective can be accessed directly.

    You can act on what you have learnt on the site, perhaps by practising 'ethical consumerism' - when you have to go shopping - and by encouraging others to do the same. Make sure you let the companies involved know why you are, or are not, purchasing their products.

    How do I make a donation?
    Donation are very welcome. We use the money to help pay for our costs. (Cheques payable to 'McSpotlight' can be sent to PO Box 10792, London, N10 3PQ, UK.)


    8. HOW CAN I STAY INFORMED ?

    To stay informed about events relating to the McLibel trial or McSpotlight, the easiest way is to make frequent visits to the McSpotlight web site.

    How can I find new additions to the site?
    To make it easier to see what is new on the site, there is a page dedicated to recording all major additions to the site at http://www.mcspotlight.org/new.html

    Do you have a mailing list?
    You could also subscribe to the McLibel mailing list. This provides details about all the latest news from the McLibel trial, as well as news about McSpotlight and anti-McDonald's campaigns from around the world. To subscribe to the list, simply type your email address into the box below and then hit 'subscribe'.

    Alternatively, you can subscribe manually:
    get on: send blank email to list-subscribe@mclibel.org
    get off: send blank mail to list-unsubscribe@mclibel.org
    help: send blank mail to list-help@mclibel.org
    human: send meaningful mail to list-owner@mclibel.org

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