GT News Wrap

Courts and the Internet, Flap Over Health Plan Criticism, Broadband Policy, Election Reporting System

by / August 21, 2009

Courts Seek to Bring Order to Internet Citations

As the Internet pervades society, it is influencing the courts as well, and in an attempt to bring order to the use of Internet citations in judicial opinions, the Judicial Conference of the United States recently issued "suggested practices" for the use of Internet materials, URLs, etc. in opinions. "Judges are citing to and using Internet-based information in their opinions with increasing frequency," wrote Judicial Conference of the United States Secretary Jim Duff to chief judges. "Unlike printed authority, Internet information is often not maintained at a permanent location, and a cited webpage can be changed or deleted at any time. Obviously, this has significant implications for the reliability of citations in court opinions." For example, an article on the matter in the New Jersey Law Journal said that a trial judge took judicial notice of information from Wikipedia, but since anyone can edit the material on that site, an appeals court threw out the decision calling the information "inherently unreliable."

"Reality Check" Follows Flap Over White House Attempt to Curb Health Plan Criticism

The White House, in an effort to provide accurate information on the new health care plan, put up a "Reality Check" Web site that attempts to counter what it terms misinformation being spread by opponents of the plan. The site provides video questions and answers, such as a question from Bianca Garcia about why Congress exempted itself from the new plan. Congress didn't exempt itself, says White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass in a video response, it provides a choice for members of Congress just as it will provide a choice to Americans without health insurance. According to an August 17 story on CNET, an earlier attempt by the White House to have citizens report misinformation by e-mail backfired. One opponent said it was an attempt to get Americans to report on fellow citizens, and another called it an "enemies list."

State And Local Elected Officials Weigh in on National Broadband Policy

America's national broadband plan should focus on overcoming the social and economic obstacles preventing adoption of high-speed Internet service, according to organizations representing state and local elected officials. America is wired for broadband, said the groups in a release. Over 90 percent of U.S. households are able to access at least one wireline broadband service, and 98 percent of Americans live in a ZIP code served by two or more providers. But only 63 percent of households now have broadband in the home. For certain demographic groups, the adoption rate is well below 50 percent. The groups asked committees to work with the FCC to develop a national broadband strategy which will give every American household the ability and incentive to adopt broadband, and take advantage of the opportunities it will bring.

South Dakota Election Reporting System Wins National Award

South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson announced that his office has been awarded the Election Center's 2009 Professional Practices Program State Award, recognizing the most outstanding election administration professional practice in the nation. The 2009 award was given to South Dakota for the 2008 development and implementation of a new central election reporting system. The system's components include the collection and display of county election results in real time, a voter information portal so voters can check registration status, polling place and sample ballot. The system also includes a candidate filing database, ballot preparation and canvassing. System development was a partnership between the Secretary of State, software developer BPro Inc., and the state's Bureau of Information Technology.

Wayne Hanson Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government