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e-Democracy update - 26/4/06 - Group to save internet, Yahoo! helps China, and India campaigns with SMS

26 April, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Organisations join together to save Internet

Several online organisations have formed a coalition in hopes to "save the Internet" and preserve net neutrality.

The coalition comprises of 61 organisations and people including Professor Lawrence Lessig, Professor Timothy Wu, and MoveOn.org. Media freedom organisation Free Press coordinates the coalition.

Free Press campaign director Tim Karr says the fight for Internet freedom is now being "waged in earnest".

"On one side you have the public... on the other side you have the nation's largest telephone and cable companies, who have aligned with some in Congress to strip the Internet of the First Amendment," Mr Karr says.

US Congress' Energy and Commerce Committee will vote on new telecommunications reforms later this week. The Save the Internet coalition says the new laws do not do enough to protect net neutrality.

Last month, CEOs from US telecommunication networks AT&T and Verizon said plans existed to create systems where certain companies would have to pay more for their data-intensive use of the Net.

They said intensive usage could slow access for regular customers.

Yahoo! blamed for Chinese writer arrest

Yahoo! might have helped Chinese authorities in the arrest of an Internet writer and his subsequent jailing for four years, according to a press freedom organisation.

A spokesperson for Reporters without Borders says they have obtained a copy of the verdict for Jiang Lijun, sentenced in November 2003 for his online pro-democracy articles.

The spokesperson says the verdict shows that Yahoo! helped Chinese police identify him.

"Little by little we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo! is implicated in the arrest of most of the people that we have been defending," the spokesperson says.

According to the verdict, Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) provided e-mail account information to prosecutors.

The e-mail information includes details of account "ZYMZd2002", which Jiang Lijun used with another pro-democracy activist, Li Yibing.

Yahoo! representative Mary Osako says the company denies the allegations and is unclear how the information on Jiang Lijun has been accessed.

"Yahoo! Hong Kong has never provided user information to the [Chinese] government," Ms Osako said.

"That's a very important fact. What was named in the verdict is an entity called Yahoo! Holdings which is different to Yahoo! Hong Kong."

Download the verdict here. (Translation begins on page 12)

India launches SMS campaigns

Several SMS campaigns have been launched in India over the last week.

West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee launched a Short Message Service (SMS) election campaign for the up-coming Assembly elections.

Sources say the subscriber base of mobile phones sits around 38 per cent in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal, and 15 per cent in the total West Bengal area.

Sources also say that this campaign will continue until Election Day.

Another recent SMS campaign has ordered for justice after allegations that a police officer sexually exploited a woman in Panta for several years.

The message contains the mobile number for the Bihar Director General of Police for people to send complaints.

Also, people in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh started a SMS campaign to save water.

The SMS reads: "Sir, kindly save water for a safe future." The message also requests to be sent to as many people as possible.

Sources say the first use of SMS campaigning in India was during the State Assembly Elections in 2003.

New resource for civic bloggers

Australian e-Democracy now contains links to a new resource entitled "Guide to Civic Leadership Blogging" by Griff Wigley.

The guide details reasons for civic blogging, useful advice for making blogs effective, numerous checklists and more.

Check out the guide in our resources section.

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