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Intel Feels The Wrath Of 'Conflict Minerals' Activists

Chip giant’s Facebook page, Oregon campus are targeted by protesters who are pushing for a law that would curtail trade in metals used to fuel conflict in Africa.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker has thrown its support behind the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in 2009 by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), but human rights activists accuse Intel of attempting to water the bill down before its passage.

Intel’s Facebook page became a bulletin board for conflict minerals activists this past week. Early this week, the comment section had filled up with hundreds of messages demanding that Intel stop using raw materials from countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where human rights groups say the trade in metals like tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold fuels conflict that has led to gruesome mass atrocities and loss of human life.

Around midweek, Intel purged its Facebook page of activists’ comments, but later restored them after coming under fire in other online venues like Twitter and said it would only delete blatantly offensive comments going forward.

Some of Intel’s Facebook defenders accused activist commenters of “spamming” the company’s page. One typical cut-and-pasted message posted repeatedly on the page read:

“Intel, Please make us proud by actively supporting the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4128). You are an industry leader, and an example in many ways. We will continue to support your good work if you do the right thing.”

While Intel endured online pressure, the company’s Hillsboro, Ore.-based campus this week played host to real-life picketers bearing signs that read, “Your supply chain. Your responsibility.”

A Monday protest of 30 people led by human rights activist and author Lisa Shannon focused on the human cost of the conflict minerals trade in the Congo, according to reports. Protestors carried jars containing what they said were 45,000 pennies -- one for each life human rights groups estimate is lost per month in the Congo as a result of the country’s bloody conflicts.

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