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Challenges and opportunities for freedom of expression in the networked environment

News stories (27 Feb - 06 March 07)

info: Submitted by Lisa Horner on Tue, 2007-03-06 13:05.

Drivers of Change

BSkyB furious at ITV shares enquiry
British government investigates whether the growth in Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of UK media outlets is acting against the public interest. Interesting example of how regulation can play a role in fostering public interest media.

Africa-wide trading programme for mobile phones launched
A new service that allows users to sign up for SMS messages about agricultural markets and products. Demonstrates the wider potential of the mobile phone than simply a platform for one to one communications.

Microsoft warned of more EU fines
The European Commission is threatening to fine Microsoft for uncompetitive market behaviour. An example of the importance of the EU as a regulatory body and of the tensions that can exist between regulators and companies. This opinion piece (Is the writing on the web for Microsoft?) comments on the monopoly of the operating systems and software markets by Microsoft.

China bans new internet cafes for a year
The Chinese government has banned the opening of new internet cafes, reportedly to combat internet addiction and juvenile crime. Nearly 30% of Chinese internet users access the internet from internet cafes (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2005)

Public debate and information

Find out what the global blogosphere has been talking about this week at Global Voices

Financial Times to start charging website users
FT decision to continue to charge for access to much of its website as it considers itself to have a role in mediating discussions through effectively limiting participation to a ‘rarefied’ audience of senior business and political figures. Will ‘mainstream media’ increasingly see their role as curators of information and debate rather than reporters and gatekeepers?

Egypt’s bloggers test state media control
Following the jailing of an Egyptian blogger last week, this article explores activities in the Egyptian blogosphere and the challenges faced by bloggers.

Civil Society

Sri Lanka suspends phone sales to Tiger areas
Tamil Tigers separatist group used mobile networks to obtain information about the Sri Lankan army’s movements, prompting the government to suspend the sale of telecom services by third parties in the north and east of the country. Example of the use of new technologies by ‘subversive’ groups, and of the government’s power to control communications in the name of fighting terrorism.

NSPCC books into virtual hotel
The UK charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is using a children’s ‘virtual community’ internet game to get more people involved in its anti-bullying campaign.


U.S. presidential hopefuls flock to YouTube
Candidates for the 2008 USA presidential elections have launched campaigning videos on the popular YouTube file sharing site. This has prompted a number of opinion pieces about the power of the web to revolutionise democracy: The political power of the network ; The web works for the grassroots, but political power still lies with the few
The use of popular internet tools for political campaigning isn’t limited to America, and this article (Minister upsets Italians)) describes how a politician in Italy is attempting to transfer his power into the online ‘Second Life’ virtual community through setting up an office there.

New virtual network unites women in politics around the globe
The UNDP has launched a web-based network called ‘iKnow Politics’ to “make governance work better for women and to advance the role and number of women in political and public life”.

Culture and education

BBC and YouTube partner to bring short-form BBC content to online audiences
BBC content to be made available through YouTube

Push for open access to research
A campaign by research institutions has pushed the European Commission into providing financial support for the development of open or free access to research resources via the internet. Will technology democratise knowledge production and distribution, prompting the development of new funding models to bring down the costs of accessing research? New technologies are also allowing for greater collaboration in the research process itself, and this article (The new science of sharing) suggests that this may revolutionise science.

Will a commercial BitTorrent lead to more piracy?
Comment piece suggesting that the move of peer-to-peer file sharing sites such as BitTorrent into the legal music and film download market may increase piracy. Meanwhile, the US recording industry is asking universities to help them stop students from illegally downloading music and films from the internet (Recording industry urges students to stop downloads)

Beware the backwards-looking patents that can stifle innovation
Comment piece reflecting on the intellectual property rights regime, using the recent USA ruling about MP3 patents as a starting point.