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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Japanese MP opens cyber office
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Japanese lawmakers. File photo
Mr Suzuki is seeking re-election in July
A Japanese politician has become the first of the nation's lawmakers to open a cyber office on the internet-based virtual world Second Life.

Kan Suzuki says he wants to discuss new policies with net citizens, deliver lectures and also hold meetings.

But Mr Suzuki, who is seeking a re-election in the upper house in July, could be breaking the electoral law.

Second Life - which has some seven million users - was invented by American company Linden Lab.

Users create virtual versions of themselves, known as avatars, who then inhabit the three-dimensional virtual world - shopping, playing games and even trying to make money.

Already some big Japanese firms - like Toyota and Honda - have established a presence in Second Life.


Mr Suzuki says he is the first Japanese politician to establish an office there.

Screen grab from Second Life
Second Life has become an online phenomenon

He plans to offer net citizens the chance to ask questions and to discuss policy with the staff working in his virtual office.

But his real office could find itself having to answer some difficult questions from election officials.

Japan's Public Office Election law, which was drawn up more than 50 years ago, limits the distribution of text and images for use in election campaigns to postcards and pamphlets.

Officials have recently ruled that web pages cannot be created or updated during the official period of campaigning for elections.

It is not yet clear how that will affect Mr Suzuki's plans to use his virtual office to help him win re-election.

It has led some to dismiss his move as nothing but a gimmick.

Others say it is a valid experiment to determine how virtual society and politics can interact.

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16 Oct 06 |  Technology
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26 Sep 06 |  Technology

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