U.S. House Passes Anti-Spam Bill
(Coalition Against Unsolicited Email Newsletter, July 2000) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Unsolicited Commercial
Electronic Mail Act of 2000 on 18 July by a vote of 427-1. Under
the bill, Internet service providers (ISPs) can set their own
anti-spam policies, which senders must obey as long as the policy
is published. Also, ISPs and recipients of spam can sue for $500
per spam -- a cause of action that recipients of junk faxes already
enjoy -- and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission can fine violators
of anti-spam policies. The bill also requires all commercial e-mail
(CE), solicited or not, to have a working return address, and
senders of CE must stop sending e-mail when requested to do so.
Forged headers on CE would become illegal under the bill. It now
goes to the U.S. Senate, where it must be reconciled with anti-spam
bills already introduced in the Senate. More information.
South African President Wants to E-nable Africa
(Internet News South Africa, 25 July 2000) - South African President
Thabo Mbeki has pledged to bring Africa into the electronic information
age, saying that the availability of technology and its dissemination
are crucial for the continent's economic and social development.
In a speech following the conclusion of the G-8 summit held in
Okinawa, Japan, he said that the focus needs to be on wiring the
continent. Excluding South Africa, the continent has 14 million
phone lines -- fewer than either Manhattan or Tokyo. Even in South
Africa, there were only 829 information technology (IT) engineers
and 1,416 IT professionals at the end of 1999, a fraction of those
in either the U.S. or European countries. Mbeki, along with the
presidents of Nigeria and Algeria, was instrumental in lobbying
for the Dot Force (Digital Opportunity Task Force), which will
investigate ways for poorer nations to harness the Internet and
e-commerce. The G-8 has committed itself to the Dot Force, which
will present its findings at next year's summit in Genoa, Italy.
Internet Democracy Project Launched
(The Human Rights Information Network, 6 July 2000) - The American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility (CPSR), and the Electronic Privacy Information
Center (EPIC) have launched the Internet Democracy Project, a
program dedicated to strengthening civil society's role in Internet
governance. Hans Klein, chair of CPSR, noted that quasi-governmental
organizations such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) have been making key governance decisions
about the Internet. He said that the views of "civil society"
must be taken into account in making these decisions. The Project
sponsored a forum, "Civil Society and the ICANN Elections," during
the ICANN board meeting in Yokohama, Japan, last month. ICANN
is not the only focus of the Project. "Our work will be broader
and we will encourage the participation of the Public Voice at
every opportunity," said Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director.
More information here or here.
EU Hopes to Rid Internet of Illegal Content
(Nua Internet Surveys, 3 July 2000) - The European Union has announced
a plan to remove illegal and harmful content from the Internet.
Under its Internet Action Plan, 10 new projects will promote safer
use of the Net. One project is establishing a network of hotlines
across Europe that the public can use to report illegal Internet
content; the hotlines will pass the reports onto Internet service
providers, the police, or other authorities. Another project is
the development of software that rates and filters Internet content,
intended for parents to use to protect their children. The Internet
Action Plan is also funding awareness programs to educate parents,
teachers, and children about the downsides of the Internet. A
new call for proposals is currently under way. The Plan, begun
in 1998, runs until 2002. More information.
Olympics Sue over Domain Names
(Washington Post, 14 July 2000) - The International, U.S., and
Salt Lake City Olympic committees have filed suit to have 1,804
Internet domain names either deleted from the database of Internet
addresses or turned over to the Olympic committees. It is the
largest suit filed so far under the anticybersquatting act passed
by the U.S. Congress last fall; a previous case, involving domain
names using the word "Porsche," covered 260 domain names. In most
cases, Web sites have not been established under the domain names
in question -- they have only been purchased. Some of the names
involve pornography and gambling, and some appear as if they are
offering tickets to Olympic events. In addition to creating false
associations with the Olympic name and damaging its value, the
committees argue that the Web sites could encroach on the Olympics'
sales of broadcasting rights to Olympic games coverage, worldwide
sponsorships, and licenses -- all major sources of revenue for
the Olympic committees.
Japan's PM Touts Information Technology
(Reuters, 18 July 2000) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
has been touting information technology as the solution to Japan's
domestic problems. Since the spotlight fell on Tokyo leading up
to the G-8 summit in July, Mori has launched a panel to advise
him on boosting Japan's competitive profile and an IT Strategy
Council containing well-known people such as the chairman of Sony,
Nobuyuki Idei. In a speech to his Industrial Rebirth Council,
Mori pledged to set a schedule for making Japan more of an IT
nation. He said that Japan's initial budget for the fiscal year
starting in April 2001 would put priority on spending for IT infrastructure
and related projects. Some disagree with his plans to increase
spending. "What is important is to promote structural changes
in Japan," said Jesper Koll, chief economist at Merrill Lynch
in Tokyo. "To talk of promoting the Internet just skims the surface.
It is all related -- to the basic structural reform of Japan overall
and to administrative reform as well."
China's Post Office Advancing E-Commerce
(Asia Internet News, 31 July 2000) - China's State Postal Bureau
is clearing the way for e-commerce to take hold in China. Postal
officials have been seeking input from distribution and Internet
companies on how best to do this. The postal bureau has established
236 distribution centers, according to a report in People's Daily
Online. In addition, it has recently begun offering limited banking
services, delivering packages COD, and remitting payments to vendors,
according to Shanghai e-commerce executives. The problems that
electronic merchants face in China could be alleviated by the
postal bureau's Green Card, a combination debit card and ATM card
for postal services. More information.