As cybercitizens anxiously await a court decision on the federal Communications Decency Act case, the Internet itself has provided evidence that self-regulation is possible in at least some controversies.
A recent Usenet vote on whether to create a newsgroup for the discussion of "white power" music was voted down in what may be "one of the most actively campaigned [issues] in Usenet history," according to Michael Handler, a volunteer vote counter for the Usenet Volunteer Votetakers, a group founded in 1993 that performs all the balloting tasks for Usenet newsgroups.
Although Usenet has no formal regulations or governing body, a loose set of governing guidelines among Usenet news administrators require that additions to the the "big seven" groups (comp., misc., news., rec., sci., soc., talk.) passes a voting procedures defined in the unofficial Usenet Guidelines.
The rec.music.white-power discussion group was first proposed by Milton Kleim, a Canadian, as a way to share ideas on a genre of music that has racist and nationalist themes.
All told, Handler reported that there were 33,033 no votes and 592 yes votes. The balloting, however, did anything but settle larger issues of free speech online, raising new concerns about censorship on the typically anarchic Internet. Now, for example, another newsgroup called talk.politics.national-socialism has been proposed to demonstrate that Netizens of all political views will be able to express themselves.
The voting process also demonstrated the strength of users' political convictions--beliefs held strongly enough to motivate both sides to try to cheat. In his posting, Handler detailed how he had to weed out over 6,200 invalid votes.
As CDA ruling looms, Netizens prepare