Protesters, activists also center stage at South by Southwest


    Tens of thousands of people are flooding into Austin for music, movies and politics. (CBS Austin)

    Tens of thousands of people are flooding into Austin for music, movies and politics.

    South by Southwest (SXSW) is becoming the place to showcase more than bands and documentaries. Protesters and activists are also center stage. Organizers say South By reflects what's happening across the country. The nation's more politicized state of mind is helping to set the agenda inside the festival's meeting rooms and on the streets.

    At SXSW politics is getting a bigger megaphone. From political-themed panels to pop-up protests the 10-day festival gives companies a platform to push their ideas.

    "This is a protest against Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg," said Peter Rex, CEO and founder of Trustwork.

    Trustwork took over a street corner in Downtown Austin on Thursday. Employees congregated next to the Austin Convention Center not only to bash Facebook but to punch holes in the business model of many tech giants.

    "There's nothing wrong with a networking platform where they share photos, but there's something wrong when the leadership of the company is looking at the users as something to extract value from," said Rex.

    Rex says too many companies release a steady stream of social and consumer products that distract people from being productive. He thinks more businesses need to focus on creating entrepreneurs by developing tools that help people find jobs, hire professionals, network and collaborate.

    "Stop consumerizing people and start empowering them," said Rex.

    It's a message that was hard to miss on Thursday in the downtown area. Even though Zuckerberg won't see the airplane banner and street protest, thousands at South by Southwest did. Some thought Facebook shouldn't get the only thumbs down.

    "The company doesn't need to criticize the other company to get all the audience for them," said Ana Arcoverde, a SXSW badge holder.

    "There is a market for everybody, so they should try to do something best and try to compete fairly," said Liane Grassi, a SXSW badge holder.

    SXSW continues through Sunday, March 17.

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