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Icelanders Give Crowdsourced Constitution Warm Reception

Icelanders Give Crowdsourced Constitution Warm Reception

Today in international tech news: Iceland's crowdsourced constitution gets the green light from voters. Also: A group seeks payback for U.S. transgressions by hacking the National Weather Service, the UK adds to its file-sharing blockade, and ZTE's bad month gets worse.

By David Vranicar
10/23/12 9:36 AM PT

Voters in Iceland have responded favorably to the government's offer to let them participate in drafting the nation's new constitution.

According to GigaOm, the idea to let citizens chime in online, namely via Facebook and Twitter, was hatched by 25 people on the Constitutional Council, which was tasked with devising a new constitution. The council utilized ideas it found online and wove them into a draft constitution that was delivered in July.

The next step toward implementing these Web-based suggestions was a national referendum. Indeed, citizens approved, by a two-to-one margin, that the new constitution be based on the crowdsourced draft.

The parliament will now decide if that draft will be officially adopted as the national constitution.

GigaOm attributes this extreme brand of participatory democracy to the lingering effects of the financial crisis, which ravaged Iceland's banks and government. Thus did new lawmakers opt to go the open route -- first with the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which is fiercely protective of free speech and whistleblowers, and then with constitutional crowdsourcing.

Finland, one of Iceland's Nordic brethren, has used crowdsourcing to draft laws. As with Iceland, elected lawmakers ultimately make decisions about online proposals.

Hackers Unleash Ire On National Weather Service

A group calling itself "Kosova Hacker's Security" has taken credit for hacking into servers belonging to the U.S. National Weather Service.

According to Naked Security, the hackers used a soft spot in the weather.gov website to release sensitive data from government systems.

The people taking credit for the attack said it was payback for American aggression against Muslim nations, including the "Flame" malware reportedly created by the U.S. and Israel.

Taking advantage of a local file inclusion vulnerability on government servers, the hackers leaked info such as administrative account names. The group claims more hacks have taken place and that more leaks are pending.

UK Asks ISPs to Expand Pirate Blockade

The UK has asked its major Internet service providers to block three additional file-sharing sites, according to the BBC.

The UK first ordered that ISPs block notorious BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay in April. Now, Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents have been added to the blacklist.

The request to block these sites comes from the British Phonographic Industry. The BPI does not enforce or create law, but the UK's biggest ISPs said they would comply with the request should it become law.

Nielsen, the Web monitoring firm, said that the three sites in question combined for more than one million unique visitors in September.

A spokesman for BPI told the BBC that the sites threatened Britain's digital music sector. A copyright specialist in London told the BBC that, because of the precedent set by the Pirate Bay ruling, a block of these sites could be implemented relatively quickly.

Huawei, ZTE in the News Again

Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE are in the news again this week.

Two weeks after a House Intelligence report said that Huawei and ZTE shouldn't be trusted to build U.S. communications infrastructure, Huawei is reportedly working on a new, mammoth smartphone. According to ITPortal, the screen of the Ascend Mate will be 6.1 inches -- bigger than the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and nearly as big as the 7-inch diagonal display common on smaller tablets.

While Huawei was working on big phones, ZTE was working on big losses. As Tech In Asia reports, the company lost more than US$260 million in the third quarter, driving profit down more than 250 percent compared to last year. The company's stock price has fallen more than 20 percent in recent days.


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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