MPs give political e-lobbying thumbs down

E-campaigning, when voter or protest groups embark on mass e-mail campaigns to their Members of Parliament (MPs), has been...

E-campaigning, when voter or protest groups embark on mass e-mail campaigns to their Members of Parliament (MPs), has been slammed as an ineffective, network-damaging political tool.

Both MPs and IT lobbyists reject it as a political tool because it creates too much network havoc and could potentially land the senders in hot water.

Fearful of being overwhelmed by e-mails from constituents, a spokesman for IT Minister Richard Alston said there is a big difference between lobbying and spamming.

While an MP welcomes correspondence from constituents, he said, bulk e-mail campaigns are not a form of contact, but damaging and with the potential to crash the network.

However, e-mail correspondence is increasing, with a spokeswoman from attorney-general Daryl Williams' office claiming there has been a significant increase in electronic communication in the last couple of years.

In the UK, MPs are abandoning e-mail due to concerted e-mail campaigns that have proved extremely damaging. The highly influential House of Commons Information Select Committee has released a report claiming MPs are ruling out new communications channels "on the basis there is no capacity to deal with them".

About 20% of MP correspondence in the UK is via electronic means and is predicted to grow to as high as 70% in the next few years.

The House of Commons report found that when MPs receive a mass posting of e-mails from a group protesting about a particular issue, rather than dealing with each e-mail either personally or through a member of staff, MPs "may decide to delete each one without reading it first; but care will need to be taken to identify and preserve mail from constituents".

The UK committee plans to look into e-mail filtering software to "weed out 'junk' e-mail" and recommended MPs have reliable remote access links from outside the Houses of Parliament and that they are trained in using such technologies as virtual private networks.

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