NEW YORK Viacom Inc's MTV will launch a new Internet social network sponsored by foundations operated by the founders of Microsoft and AOL to encourage youth activism.
The site, Think.MTV.com, is designed to be a resource for social and political issues, aiming to inform as well as let users connect with other like-minded people on issues from the environment to sexual health and discrimination.
It will let users create pages, as on other online social networks Facebook and MySpace, and upload photos and videos, some of which may be aired on MTV's online or cable network.
"We've only been able to devote a certain amount of time on air," MTV President Christina Norman said in a phone interview. "The Think platform creates an umbrella to be able to talk about a number of issues at a time."
The site is backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case's Case Foundation, Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates's Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Goldhirsh Foundation and MCJ Foundation.
The test launch on Thursday comes just weeks after MTV struck a deal with News Corp's MySpace social network to host a series of discussions between U.S. presidential candidates and Internet viewers that will be streamed online.
The presidential discussions will also air on Think.MTV.
Think.MTV's launch also comes amid a push at the network to boost its Internet presence. Profiles created on Think.MTV can be used in other parts of MTV Networks online properties.
MTV, which has a long history in stoking youth interest in political and social issues, aims to "close the gap" between the high interest in activism among young people and the comparatively lower levels of action.
An MTV poll last year showed some 80 percent of respondents said doing something to help the community was the right thing to do. But only 19 percent said they were "very involved."
"It's an issue of not knowing where to start," MTV Vice President of Public Affairs Ian Rowe said. "Global warming and genocide in Darfur issues are so huge it's overwhelming."
Think.MTV and the Knight Foundation will award up to $500,000 to young creators who come up with an idea to use digitally delivered news to improve real communities.
MTV said organizations and celebrities that will use the site include the United Nations, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and musician Bono.