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e-Democracy update - 24/5/06 - JI web recruitment, Berners-Lee supports net neutrality and candidates debate with bloggers

24 May, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

JI uses web to recruit

A terrorism expert says Southeast Asian extremist groups are using the internet to recruit people and raise funds but are not yet mounting cyber-attacks.

Rohan Gunaratna, head of political violence and terrorism at Singapore's Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, says regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) uses the internet to spread its propaganda.

"It will take a very long time for Southeast Asian groups to develop the capability to attack the internet… Instead of attacking the internet, they are using the internet."

"There are a number of terrorist groups that are using the internet very effectively to distribute propaganda, to recruit, to raise funds and to coordinate terrorist attacks," he says.

His comments come amidst claims of possible non-specific cyber-attacks from terrorists in the future.

Berners-Lee supports net neutrality

The World Wide Web's inventor wants a clear division between Internet access and Internet content, according to comments from a recent conference in Edinburgh.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) director Tim Berners-Lee says it is better and more efficient for people to have separate markets for internet connectivity and content.

"Information is what I use to make all my decisions. Not just what to buy, but how to vote," Mr Berners-Lee says.

"There is an effort by some companies in the U.S. to change this. There's an attempt to get to a situation where if I want to watch a TV station across the Internet, that TV station must have paid to transmit to me."

Mr Berners-Lee says the issue is a US-only problem at present.

"In Europe, net neutrality is the rule," he says.

In related news, US Senators have released a new Internet Freedom Preservation Act as an amendment to the existing US Communications Act (1934) in an attempt to preserve net neutrality.

US Democrats debate amidst bloggers

Four US Democrat candidates running for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts have faced a recent question-and-answer debate with bloggers.

State Democrat candidates Andrea Silbert, Sam Kelley, Deborah Goldberg and Timothy Murray all debated their various accomplishments while bloggers covered the event live.

You can view a video of the event here.

View some of the liveblog results here:

Blue Mass. Group
MassChange News’s list of Massachusetts-based blogs

Plug pulled on Ethiopian opposition websites

Several websites critical of the Ethiopian government have experienced downtime within the country since May 17, according to a press freedom organisation.

A Reporters Without Borders spokesperson says they have asked Ethiopia's information and culture minister Hailu Berhan to explain this downtime.

"We would like to know if your government has deliberately blocked access to online publications, a list of which we enclose, thus taking the course of filtering the Internet," the organisation asked Mr Berhan in a letter.

"The Ethiopian Internet is dynamic and has seen the development of an extremely active blogging community. It is your responsibility to ensure that all opinions can be expressed online, even when some Internet-users directly criticise government action.

"Preventing debate and controlling news and information circulating online will only aggravate an already very tense political climate.

"We also wish to draw to your attention the consequences of filtering a blog tool such as blogspot, which is currently inaccessible in Ethiopia. Blocking access to this service has the effect of censoring all publications which it hosts, the vast majority of which do not deal with politics or with Ethiopia."

Ethiopian authorities have made no comment for the moment.

A list of sites currently inaccessible in Ethiopia include:

Attack site raises funds

A political consultancy firm has created a website to attack a political candidate and raise funds for her opponent.

Mandate Media president Kari Chisholm says he created the site in response to Republican senate candidate Katherine Harris' announcement that she would invest $10 million of her own money into her struggling campaign to unseat Democrat Senator Bill Nelson.

The site proclaims a message to "tell Katherine Harris that U.S. Senate seats are not for sale" and allows people to donate money to Sen Nelson.

"You've got a world in which the genie is out of the bottle and free speech is now available to everyone," Mr Chisholm says.

"Now everyone can buy ink by the barrel."

The website has so far collected over $4600 in donations, well over an initial target of $1000.

The website also claims it is "not paid for or authorised by any candidate or candidate committee".

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