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e-Democracy update - 3/5/06 - Petrol petitions, Singaporean censorship and YouTube gets political

03 May, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

US politician launches online petrol petition

In a move that could be replicated here in Australia, a US politician has urged residents to sign an online petition on lowering petrol prices.

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has urged his constituents to sign an online petition asking for action from the federal government on rising petrol prices and profits for oil companies.

Gov Doyle says, although companies have the right to make a fair profit, they are announcing record profits at a time when people are paying record prices for petrol.

He says he hopes people will use the website to tell Congress and oil companies that the profits are excessive.

The online petition is addressed to US President George W. Bush and reads: "Please insist that Congress put a bill on your desk by Memorial Day that caps corporate oil profits, supports lowering gas prices and protects consumers from further abuse."

Last week, President Bush said there was no evidence of price gouging of consumers.

He also has urged energy companies to expand refineries and natural gas pipelines and invest in renewable sources of energy.

Singaporean opposition censored

A Singaporean opposition party has removed a podcast from its website because the Elections Department says it violates campaign advertising laws.

A Singapore Democratic Party spokesperson says they have received a takedown notice for audio files and podcasts available on the website.

In mid-April, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communication and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan banned podcasting and said it constituted election advertising.

He also says those candidates campaigning online must adhere to regulations aimed at ensuring responsible debate.

A spokesperson from press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders says the removal of the podcasts gives voters little chance to hear from the Singaporean opposition.

"Podcasts are the only way to hear the speeches of opposition leaders, who have few opportunities to speak publicly," the spokesperson says.

"We support the Internet users and bloggers fighting for free expression in Singapore."

The Singapore parliamentary general election will be held on May 6, 2006.

YouTube attracts political commentary

Online video site YouTube has become a new medium for political commentary after only five months since its inception.

One US Blogger and political commentator, Terry Turner, uses the site for uploading his political commentary video.

Mr Turner films and produces his videos with a home studio and then his uploads the results to YouTube, which can be linked to his blog.

Likewise, a recent video of US comedian Stephen Colbert roasting President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner has gained a spot as one of YouTube's most viewed videos.

In three days after the video was posted, nearly 680,000 people have viewed it.

YouTube marketing director Julie Supan says users can decide what rises up on the site.

"We're really focused on democratizing the entertainment experience, so whether it's a user-generated content from aspiring filmmakers or from one of the networks, the reality is it's users who are in control," she says.

Chinese activists launch censorship petition

A group of Chinese online activists have launched a petition against China's censorship of the Internet and are challenging the legality of information controls.

The petition began circulating last week through email and overseas Chinese-language websites unaffected by China’s censorship.

The signatories say China's constitution grants citizens freedom of expression and publication, and those rights "should be respected and protected, and should not be subject to any unlawful restrictions and obstructions".

Beijing rights activist and petition organiser Chen Yongmiao says the State Council Information Office's laws on the online dissemination of news are far too restrictive.

"The problem is we're supposed to enjoy freedom of expression, but rules like these mean all the channels for expression are blocked," he says.

Visit Chen Yongmiao’s blog here. (in Chinese)

Blogads releases political blog reader survey

A recent survey has found that most blog readers are older, male and earn mid-level incomes.

Blogads have released results of the survey, which consisted of 36,000 participants, and shows political blog readers tend to be aged between 41 to 50 years old (27 per cent), mostly male (72 per cent), and earn $60,000 to $90,000 per year (21 per cent).

39 per cent of respondents are college graduates and almost the same number have a post-graduate qualification.

"I think people want to dismiss blog readers as unemployed people in their basement. Apparently not," said Glenn Reynolds of blog InstaPundit.

The survey also noted political blog readers read blogs for 10 hours per week for "news [they] can't find elsewhere."
Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet director Carol Darr says this figure shows the mark of alienation from other forms of media.

"These are people who are presumably overworked and overstressed like the rest of us, only they find 10 hours a week to look at blogs," she said.

Read the results of the full survey here.

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