Is the Next Target for Web Activists Your Favorite Device Maker?

Apple could be next in line to face a groundswell of online and brick-and-mortar activism. Recent revelations about the harsh working conditions at the company’s manufacturing partners’ plants overseas may inspire the kind of grassroots movement that crippled anti-piracy legislation in Congress and forced Susan G. Komen for the Cure to reverse an unpopular decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

Today, Apple customers plan on protesting Apple’s manufacturing relationships with Chinese factories “where conditions are so bad, it’s not uncommon for workers to permanently lose the use of their hands.” Customers will deliver around 200,000 signatures to Apple store locations in New York, San Francisco, London and more, according to a statement from, the Web site that hosted and raised awareness for the petition. The petitioners want Apple to create a “worker protection strategy” for new product releases that prevent abuses caused by manufacturing deadlines.

Apple reacted quickly to the Jan. 25 New York Times article that exposed the working conditions at manufacturing plants in China that build Apple products. In an internal e-mail, CEO Tim Cook said Apple cares about every worker in its supply chain, and to accuse it of the opposite is “patently false and offensive to us.”

However, as evidenced by the 200,000-strong petition en route to Apple Stores, plus 50,000 more signatures via, Cook’s internal e-mail was obviously not enough to satisfy Apple customers.

Apple should prepare itself for a potential tidal wave of public opinion. The supporters of the SOPA anti-piracy bill and Susan G. Komen's leaders were caught flat-footed, but a company like Apple doesn't have the excuse of being unaware of the growing power of the social Web.

Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel