The Launch of McSpotlight - 16th Feb 1996
London - Chicago - Helsinki - Auckland
After a truly staggering 3 months of document scanning, international networking and rabble-rousing pre-hype, McSpotlight finally hit the cyber streets at 10.30 GMT 16th February 1996. The first server statistics confirmed McDonald's worst fears - the site was accessed 35,386 times in the first 24 hours. By the afternoon, it was almost impossible to connect to the server.
In London, the McLibel defendants, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, headed the protests at McDonald's Leicester Square store in central London. Incredibly, the original plan of pretending to access the site live on the Internet, was dropped 15 minutes before take-off, as an unknown supporter arrived complete with laptop, mobile phone and the all-important (but too expensive for McSpotlighters) data card.
Tears flowed, children giggled, defendants smiled and unfamiliar people hugged each other as the 60-second countdown finished, the familiar logo gently appeared on the screen and everything McDonald's don't want us to know became available for the whole world to see.
Behind the defendants, a banner with the url was wrapped across the face of the McDonald's store and, in case anybody had still not noted the url, all of the McSpotlighters were wearing very fetching bumble-bee-esque t-shirts.
McDonald's failed to react to the protest, but this was hardly surprising as even the lone policeman admitted thinking the whole thing was "brilliant".
The McSpotlight crew then decamped to the Cyberia cafe for the Press Conference, compered by bestselling alternative author Peter Cox. The McLibel defendants explained why they were supporting McSpotlight and volunteers gave tours of the site to the press on 13 (unlucky for some) terminals.
Reporters from the Independent, Guardian, Daily Express, BBC, Sunday Times, Undercurrents, HHH and numerous computer magazines and independent film crews recorded the events.
Mike Love, McDonald's Head of Communications UK, maintained the corporation's usual position, "A successful judgement [in the McLibel case] will give us the option to prevent further publication, we could then take legal advice as to how it could be applied to the Internet. We're not considering that at this stage."
The US McLibel Support Campaign led the launch outside the McDonald's Corporation's International HQ in Illinois, Chicago, where they successfully managed to access the site live from a laptop and mobile phone. They ingeniously defused McDonald's attempts to remove them from the corporation's property by packing all of the protesters onto a 2ft-wide grassy verge that prior investigations at the local council had revealed to be public access.
The Helesinki press conference was apparently a huge success, with journalists and activists accessing the site directly from the Finnish McSpotlight mirror.
The New Zealand launch was equally successful, and their McSpotlight mirror is safely up and running.
The launch received international media attention. Within the first few weeks the following articles had appeared:
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