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This week in election news

As the final week of campaigning in the presidential election nears, the battle for ballots is heating up on the Internet.

As the final week of campaigning in the presidential election approaches, the battle for ballots is heating up on the Internet.

When comedian Jon Stewart blasted the hosts of CNN's "Crossfire" as fomenting political partisanship, he ignited a frenzy of online activity. The online transcript and video clips of the program became an overnight sensation among Web surfers, bloggers and pundits alike.


Photo: Comedy Central
Jon Stewart fanned
Internet flames with his
roast of CNN experts.

As of Friday morning, online video hosting site IFilm said, more than 1.6 million people had downloaded the 13-minute CNN clip from its site. Links to the IFilm video and CNN.com's transcript of the show have been posted to countless Web logs and online bulletin boards.

The video clip also was a favorite among the peer-to-peer community. According to SuprNova.org, which tracks usage of the Bit Torrent file-sharing protocol, the segment is currently being offered for download by more than 1,100 sources.

Voters in swing states currently saturated with political ads might choose to avoid the P2P Politics Web site, which helps people swap campaign commercials via e-mail. But for anyone who has missed the ads now barraging battleground states with all the relentlessness of a Florida hurricane, a trip to the new civic-minded site might be in order.

The new site is backed by Stanford Professor Lawrence Lessig and his Creative Commons foundation, which promotes a version of copyright that facilitates widespread distribution and use of content. Although the site's role in shifting voters' opinions is likely to be small, it is a real part of what has been a radical transformation in campaigning and political awareness because of the Internet.

Tech-minded voters who are still undecided may be interested in how President Bush and Sen. John Kerry stand on tech issues. Both responded to a questionnaire on technology policy from the Computing Technology Industry Association, weighing in on such issues as Internet telephony and intellectual-property protection.

Bush and Kerry, both looking to gain an edge in the extremely close race, expressed their views on 12 topics, which also include spam, privacy and unlicensed wireless spectrum. Voters can view the candidates' answers on the association's Web site.

GOP sites unplugged
One question that has gone unanswered is what made the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign sites inaccessible for six hours on Tuesday. The two Web sites failed to respond to some Internet requests starting around 8 a.m. PDT and were largely unresponsive by 9 a.m. PDT.

The problem seemed to most affect GeorgeWBush.com, which became largely inaccessible within an hour. A representative for the Bush-Cheney campaign said that the problem was being investigated and that the outage could have been caused by a technical glitch. But the sites do not seem to share the same infrastructure, making it unlikely that a technical glitch could be responsible for the outage.