The Spider

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This occasional feature, reported by bloggers around the globe, weaves together the hottest stories on the Web.

FACE ON THE MILK CARTON: Bloggers who took on the Malaysian government are winning their fight to create a national alert system for missing children, a rare concession to online journalists who frequently speak out against corrupt or inefficient officials.

Faced with rising crime rates, the Malaysian police often overlook missing children such as 8-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, whose body was discovered in a gym bag outside Kuala Lumpur in September, a month after she disappeared. Since then, three other missing Malaysian children have been reported dead. These cases prompted blogger Nuraina A. Samad, along with Nurin's uncle, to propose a Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network (NURIN) modeled on the "Amber alert" in the United States. The system would link the police, media, convenience stores and gas stations when a child is reported missing.

Samad rounded up other bloggers for a meeting with the minister in charge of family affairs, who tentatively accepted their proposal. They expect a formal commitment soon -- no small feat, considering that most officials in Southeast Asia still regard bloggers as untrustworthy.

-- Ahirudin Attan is president of the Malaysian National Alliance of Bloggers. He blogs at rockybru.blogspot.com.

BANNED IN BOMBAY: An Indian software engineer was recently released after spending 50 days in jail for supposedly posting obscene pictures of Shivaji, a 17th-century Indian hero, on Orkut, a social-networking Web site popular among Indian techies. Lakshmana Kailash was exonerated when it turned out that his Internet service provider had mistakenly provided authorities with the wrong IP address, the unique number that identifies every computer connected to the Internet.

This is not the first time that the Indian government has clamped down on online speech. In 2006, authorities blacklisted several blogs and required all Internet service providers operating in the country to block them. Instead, the providers blocked access to all blogs hosted on the most popular platforms. After concerted protests by the Indian blogosphere, the providers lifted the blanket ban and dismissed it as a technical error.

-- Arnab Ray is a research scientist who lives in Maryland. He blogs at greatbong.net.

TAPPED FOR YOUTUBE: Honduras is no stranger to scandal, and the latest is playing out online. At least eight recorded conversations in which a speaker charts a strategy for manipulating the nation's media ended up on YouTube last month. Though the speaker is unnamed, his voice is a dead ringer for that of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Prosecutors have charged Marcelo Chimirri, the former manager of the state-run telephone company, with illegal wiretapping. Chimirri "will have time to defend himself to assure he is presumed innocent," Zelaya said. "With us he has open doors, as a friend, and as a government official."

-- Aaron Ortiz is a software developer who lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He blogs at aaron-ortiz.blogspot.com.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company