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e-Democracy update - 28/9/05

28 September, 2005
By Daniel Macpherson

New survey on e-democracy in Australia

The University of Sydney will examine government e-democracy initiatives in Australia through a research project with the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA).

The project will examine these initiatives on both state and federal levels, provide an overview of Australian e-democracy policy and practice, and assess the benefits, enablers, constraints, and costs of these initiatives.

Sydney University Masters student Regula Rohrer is leading the "E-Democracy and Australian Public Sector Capacity" research project for her internship in Public Policy and Affairs at IPAA during this semester.

Recent regulations in China strangle net communication

Chinese citizens will now need to register as "news organisations" to operate e-mail distribution lists under new laws.

Other restrictions include a ban on all non-government-controlled commentary pieces on search engine websites such as and

The new laws are the first major update to Internet news and opinion policies since 2000. These laws will affect nearly 100 million Chinese citizens connected to the Internet.

The Chinese Communist Party has discussed for a long time the need for these laws after growing fears of a liberalisation in the news media, particularly with the Internet.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government sentenced a journalist to 10 years in prison after he violated a restriction on disseminating "state secrets" about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre through e-mail to the US.

New guide for censored bloggers

If Paris-based Reporters Without Borders have their way, the Chinese ban may be born impotent.

Their "Handbook for Blogger and Cyber-Dissidents" provides bloggers and other online denizens with advice on how to speak freely and anonymously online.
Reporters Without Borders head of Internet Freedom Julien Pain says it is best to have the technical skills to be anonymous online and following a few simple rules can sometimes do the trick.

"This advice is of course not for those, [such as] terrorists, racketeers or pedophiles, who use the Internet to commit crimes. The handbook is simply to help bloggers encountering opposition because of what they write to maintain their freedom of expression," he said.

The handbook is available here.

US Congress discusses laws on blogger freedom

US Congress held hearings this week that brought political communication on the Internet into focus again.

New federal regulations in the US could limit political bloggers and the amount of freedom they previously had.

Congress chairman Robert W. Ney said the debate was not between Republicans and Democrats or liberals and conservatives but between those who favour regulation and those who do not. 

"Those who favour regulation, the so-called 'reform community', believe that Internet speech must be regulated in the same manner as all other speech, lest we create a 'loophole' that will allow people to evade BCRA," he said.

"This prospect does not frighten those who oppose regulation. What does frighten them is the prospect of requiring bloggers to answer to a federal agency if regulations are extended to cover what they can do or say on their websites."

The US Federal Election Commission first proposed the news laws in March to regulate promotional contributions from politicians to net-based commentators as part of US campaign finance laws.

For more information about the hearings and copies of speeches, visit the "Political Speech on the Internet: Should it be Regulated?" section on the US Congress website.

Political blogging in Germany on the rise

Despite confusion in the aftermath of the German elections, reports indicate an increase in political blogs during this time.

PoliticsOnline editor Laura Hammond reported almost 70 political blogs were active during the elections.

"While an established online community of election bloggers in Germany may not have taken hold this time, election bloggers seem satisfied with what was accomplished in the very short timeframe of the elections," she said.

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