Texas’ Virtual Vigilantes

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How many people are sufficiently outraged over illegal immigration, or just plain bored, that they would spend hours staring at a Web-cam focussed on a parking lot? Hundreds of thousands, it turns out. In early November, Texas authorities set up a network of Internet-connected cameras to monitor the Mexican border and allow armchair Minutemen to log in from anywhere, anytime and report anything they deemed suspicious. The site drew nearly a quarter of a million users who fired off over 13,000 e-mails in one month. The results of all this feverish amateur surveillance? One dozen illlegal immigrants detained, one stolen car recovered and one truckload of pot intercepted. The program is now on hold pending further refinements.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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