MIT student introduces internet boycott platform

An MIT grad student has introduced a new internet platform he hopes will help activists deepen and expand their campaigns to boycott products made in Israeli settlements.

The website, Boycott Toolkit, is a resource where users can generate lists of specific products and companies targeted for boycotts. Right now the site lists a raft of wines, food products, and cosmetics made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights. The site also lists the locations of stores that sell each product.

The site’s user-generated content isn’t limited to Israel-related boycotts, and also lists calls to boycott Arizona over the state’s draconian new immigration law, and companies that advertise on air during Glen Beck’s right-wing Fox News talk show.

Activists can also use the site for positive campaigns, for example urging consumers to buy Palestinian-made products.

The site was developed as a master’s project by Josh Levinger, who is affiliated with the Center for Future Civic Media, part of the MIT Media Lab. Levinger visited Israel and the occupied territories several times and developed his current project after spending part of last summer in the West Bank, meeting with Palestinian and Israeli activists and academics.

“There are two basic user classes,” Levinger said of the project in an email to Palestine Note, “readers and contributors. I need to attract both kinds, and it’s hard to get each without the other. I expect a small set of ‘super contributors’ to provide most of the content; and it’s these peoples enthusiasm that I need to harness.”

Levinger said that for the first group of people, his project is “a platform for consumers to share information on the politics embedded in the products that they buy. Users can learn why specific products are targeted by a boycott, add their own research and share information with their friends.”

For the second group, the contributors who will provide the backbone of information the project relies on, Boycott Toolkit “provides tools to organize collective economic action, both negative and positive, to make a difference in their community.”

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