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Headstar Works With PITCOM to Brief MPs On Role Of Internet In Middle East Pro-Democracy Struggle

Publishing news published: Thursday 24th March 2011

A briefing for MPs and Peers on the role played by the Internet in the pro-democracy struggle in the Middle East has been published by PITCOM, the Parliamentary IT Committee, working with Headstar.

New communications technologies, including social media and handheld devices with video features, have played a significant part in channelling the current unprecedented tide of people power ripping through the Middle East. But the Internet itself has not directly caused revolutions: the motives were already there, and other conditions were right.

The new PITCOM report was written in collaboration with and on behalf of PITCOM by Headstar founder and E-Government Bulletin Editor Dan Jellinek. It examines the precise role the internet has played in recent events; the responses of the various regimes in the region as they fight retain power; and the way in which such regimes, and other anti-democratic forces, might be using new technologies to further their own ends.

It features new insights into the role of open source 'web proxy' software that allows citizens in oppressive regimes to at least attempt to view the web, use social media and publish information to the world anonymously and securely.

The independent report - commissioned rapidly to ensure a timely response to events which are still unfolding - concludes with a series of suggestions of policy areas which UK Parliamentarians ought to consider ensuring new technologies play as active and positive a role as possible in supporting the rights of people across the world as they fight for their basic freedoms. These include:

- Helping the UK and global diaspora communities of nations affected to play an active, connected role in moving news and other communication into and out of their former countries;

- Taking the potential of the Internet to boost democracy into account in the UK government's developing policy on 'Net neutrality' issues (the principle whereby different kinds of Internet traffic are afforded equal or proportionate bandwidth)

- Taking the same issues into account in further developing the UK's policy on global governance of the internet, including how far the Internet should be kept away from the direct control of governments (see also separate recent PITCOM briefing, 'Internet governance - co-operation or control?)

- Considering how far the UK should support the development of technologies to promote uncensored Internet access, such as the Tor Project.

The briefing (as are all PITCOM briefings and meeting reports) is available for free download from the briefings section of the PITCOM website.

MPs and Peers founded PITCOM in 1981 to provide a bridge between Parliament and the IT industry. The Committee is an associate Parliamentary Group, complying with House of Commons rules for all-party groups. Its administration is funded by members' annual subscriptions.

For media comment on the report please contact:
Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Chairman, PITCOM
Tel: 0207 219 5980  email: alunmichaelmp [@] parliament.uk
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