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e-Democracy update - 23/8/06 - Anti-Beattie website shutdown, Aussie e-voting trial approved, and UK Government joins YouTube

23 August, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Courts close anti-Beattie website

The Queensland Supreme Court has ruled for the closure of a defamatory political website only days after Queensland Premier Peter Beattie announced the state election date.

Justice James Douglas ordered the removal of the website because it contained misleading and offensive information critical of Mr Beattie and other Queensland members of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

ALP state secretary Milton Dick has asked Queensland Police to investigate the matter and has made a formal complaint to Queensland's Electoral Commission.

"We are demanding this illegal website is shut down immediately," Mr Dick says.

"This is a sick and perverted site that the police should take tough action on.

Reports indicated the site was registered in the United States but most likely owned by a Brisbane resident.

The Queensland election is set for September 9, 2006.

Federal e-voting trial approved

Australia's federal cabinet has approved a proposed trial of electronic voting for blind and visually impaired voters.

Special Minister of State Gary Nairn says the trial will focus on 30 polling places and, if successful, could expand to more places in the 2010 federal election.

Cabinet also will allow all Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel posted overseas to vote electronically as part of the trial.

Mr Nairn says about 4,000 ADF personnel are currently deployed overseas.

UK Government joins YouTube

The UK government has joined video-sharing website YouTube to spread public service messages.

A UK Cabinet Office spokesperson says the move is evidence the government is keeping pace with current consumer trends.

"[The government is] always looking at new ways to reach people with the things that they need to know," the spokesperson says.

Public Sector Forums director Ian Dunmore says the UK government seems like the first to use YouTube in this way.

"It's a ground-breaking move and other governments might well follow," he says.

"However, we don't expect the videos to surge to the top of the popularity chart just yet."

The UK Government has two videos uploaded so far. View them here.

US e-voting whistleblower to release book

A computer science professor, who revealed several security glitches in US electronic voting machines in 2003, has written a new book to show the ease of tampering with electronic ballots.

Computer science professor Aviel D. Rubin says there is no way for voters to verify their votes were recorded correctly.

"The problem is that these are simply computers and they’ve been programmed by people. Computer software often has bugs in it and it’s almost the ideal platform for somebody who wants to rig the election or tamper with the election in an undetectable fashion," he says.

"When a voter goes up to one of these machines and votes… they have no idea how that machine recorded the votes they cast inside of it."

"There's no way for them to have confidence that the data that’s now inside that voting machine corresponds to how they voted."

"Worse, if the election becomes controversial or if it’s very close and recount is needed… there's no way to get an independent count of those votes."

His book Brave New Ballot is set for release on September 5, 2006.

Singapore's government to podcast

Singapore's Government plans to incorporate podcasts into their media plans to get messages out to the public.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says podcasting will open up new opportunities and change the texture of society.

He also says the new technology can create new problems to be managed, such as the spread of half-truths, untruths and extremist views.

He says this new move will require the induction of new leaders to push political media into the digital age.

He also indicated the possibility of more amendments to election laws relating to podcasting.

Earlier this year, the Singaporean government banned unregistered podcasting prior to their election as part of a crackdown on harmful speech.

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