A-rockin' and a-rollin' for Internet peace

Joining a long line of worthy causes, an Internet watchdog group describing itself as "the conscience of Silicon Valley" has enlisted rock 'n' rollers to raise its profile.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation held its second annual Fillmore fund-raiser one year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Communications Decency Act. The non-profit organisation lobbies Silicon Valley for high-tech libertarian causes.

EFF president Barry Steinhardt, in brief remarks to event sponsors and VIPs, said the money raised by the event will help the EFF defend cyberspace from legislation such as the 'Son of CDA' bill, now being considered in Congress. He also said that another EFF cause, Bernstein v. U.S.A., a case that will help define U.S. policy on encryption software, will see a decision come from the court "any day."

"We're the conscience of Silicon Valley," he said, adding that the organisation raises 10 to 15 per cent of its annual budget through the fund-raiser.

Numerous financial and venture capital firms and corporate donors such as Oracle and Netscape sponsored the event, which drew hundreds of people. As VIPs munched and schmoozed with catered dishes upstairs, bands peopled by industry folks jammed on the main stage.

Esther Dyson, who co-chaired the event and was chairman of the EFF until last year, said the often arcane technical and legal issues that the EFF champions are now "getting mainstream." But, she noted, as politicians pay more attention to cyber-issues, the EFF has to continue to its work to educate both elected leaders as well as the general public.