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e-Democracy update - 1/2/06

01 February, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

SA to ban racist website

The South Australian Government has reported a website to police because of its racist content.

South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says the website is disgusting and has referred it to local police in a bid to have it shut down.

"I am disgusted by the blatant white supremacist comments on this website and will act swiftly to seek their removal," Mr Atkinson said.

"Our state has long embraced people from all nations and acts like this that seek to divide our society should not be tolerated."

The website for US-based organisation White Crusaders of RaHoWa has a South Australian post office box and an Australian Business Number.

Website administrator Col Campbell says the South Australian government has "reached an all time low in relation to the freedom of speech".

"As the government has tackled a 'White Supremist' (sic) group removing a small website situated in Australia, and threatening to arrest said 'white supremists' (sic), myself included, the government ensures that it wins the votes of the fickle, short minded voters,” he says.

“Be they black, Asiatic, Middle Eastern or guilt-ridden, self-loathing whites, as long as the government harps on about its great defeat of the 'White Supremacists' it greatly enhances its chances of remaining in power.

Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison has referred the website to the Australian Federal Police to investigate if any federal laws have been breached.

US House of Reps temporarily banned for rewriting Wikipedia articles

Wikipedia has criticised several US Congressional aides for rewriting several articles on the encyclopaedia and omitting certain factual information.

Users of the US House of Representatives' IP address were temporarily blocked from changing content after violating Wikipedia policy in a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopaedia"

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says the deletion of factual information goes against the principles of Wikipedia, which promotes a "neutral point of view" policy.

"You don't delete it," Wales said. "If they wanted to put in their side of things, that would seem ethically relevant, rather than just omitting it."

Staff of Representative Marty Meehan (Dem) deleted references to a broken election pledge and his $4.8 million campaign account.

Part of Rep Meehan's Wikipedia entry previously stated: "Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform... As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts."

The new entry reads: "Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was re-elected by a large margin in 2004."

Meehan's chief of staff Matt Vogel said he authorized an intern to replace the existing Wikipedia entry with a staff-written biography.

"Let the outside world edit it," Mr Vogel says.

"It seemed right to start with greater depth than a paragraph with incorrect data from the '80s."

Meehan's alterations on Wikipedia represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month.

Santa Clara University's society and technology director Geoffrey Bowker says the change of Meehan's entry is a serious case.

"That's someone trying to alter the public record," he says.

"To knowingly remove a truthful statement is just wrong... It's not the place of any special-interest group to tamper with the facts available to the public."

Joint media coverage of Bush speech enhances eDemocracy

America Online and the American Broadcasting Company have teamed together to cover US president George W Bush's State of the Union address and solicit feedback from US citizens.

The two media giants will offer reactions from viewers and real-time bloggers after Bush addresses the joint session of congress today.

AOL News editor-in-chief Lewis D'Vorkin says this creates an opportunity to blend the best of traditional and new media to create participatory journalism.

"We're using each other's core strengths and cross-promoting and creating the most interactive state of the union online, from text to video to user-generated comment, which is really what online news is all about these days," Mr D'Vorkin said.

ABC News Digital executive producer Michael Clemente says the technology will provide a forum that didn’t previously exist.

"It's the best kind of democracy. We present the message, collect the feedback instantly and let our viewers participate in the conversation," he says.

Institute for Public Policy Research senior researcher Jo Twist says there is an appetite to be involved with the production of news.

"The changing nature of news offers a diversity of voices, sources, and choice to enhance democratic potentials and lets anyone join in global and local conversations," she says.

Microsoft and Google under fire for Chinese censorship

US Congress will host a hearing in two days after recent reports of online censorship in China.

The hearing will specifically examine the role of major online media groups such as Microsoft and Google.

Last month, Microsoft removed a Chinese journalist's blog from MSN Spaces to adhere to the country's laws.

"Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Google also came under fire last month after the company agreed to censor search results in exchange for better access to China's communication technology market.

So far neither Google nor Microsoft have agreed to send representatives to the hearing.

Subcommittee spokesperson Brad Dayspring says they have the power to subpoena both companies

"There has been no decision made whether to use that [power] or not."

Subcommittee chairman Representative Chris Smith (Rep) says Google is collaborating with persecutors of people who have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth.

"It is astounding that Google, whose corporate philosophy is 'don’t be evil', would enable evil by cooperating with China’s censorship policies just to make a buck," Rep Smith says.

The hearing is scheduled for Feburary 15, 2006.

Study shows Internet strengthens social network

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released a report that shows the Internet and e-mail strengthens social ties between people.

The report also shows that people incorporate the Internet into their quest for information and advice to help make decisions on aspects of their lives, including political matters.

University of Toronto sociologist and study co-author Jeffrey Boase says e-mail especially becomes more important when a person’s network becomes larger and more diverse.

"You can't make phone calls or personal visits to all your friends very often, but you can 'cc' them regularly with a couple of keystrokes. That turns out to be very important."

New book: Wireless Networking in the Developing World

A team of seven leading communication technology experts has written a new book on developing low-cost wireless networks.

The book entitled "Wireless Networking in the Developing World" is free to download or available to order in hard copy.

Lead author Rob Flickenger says the book addresses the "chicken-and-egg problem" of wireless networking.

"While much information about building wireless networks can be found on-line, that presents a problem for people in areas with little or no connectivity," Mr Flickenger says.

Mr Flickenger co-wrote the book with other known industry experts including Corinna Aichele, Carlo Fonda, Jim Forster, Ian Howard, Tomas Krag and Marco Zennaro.

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