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Circular Awards 2009 - now with added Astroturf

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We're in our fifth year of watching the circular awards business - where like-minded campaign groups indulge in an annual orgy of backscratching. And this is shaping up to be the most exciting yet!

It first caught our attention in 2005, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to give its prestigious 'Pioneer Award' - which had previously gone to pioneers in the telecomms and IT such as Bob Kahn and Ivan Sutherland - to, er, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In cyberspace, no one knows you're a highly-decorated dog

The circle widened - but not by much, obviously - with the rise to prominence of Public Knowledge and Free Press. Both of these ersatz "citizen" groups - in reality, astroturf groups for Google - adopted many of the same freetard issues as the EFF. This made them eminently suitable to be recognised for an award. And equally, they could present their own backs for a good rub-down.

So last year, we saw Public Knowledge give one of its annual awards to Ben Scott of Free Press, and another to Fred von Lohmann of the EFF. Two years previously, von Lohmann had awarded Gigi Sohn, head of Public Knowledge, with an EFF award.

Now there's a new kid on the block. Last year, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt donated $1m to the New America Foundation, and took a seat on the board. The organisation spontaneously discovered lots of policy areas it just had to get involved with - coincidentally, Google-friendly areas such as spectrum regulation. To achieve this, NAF has spawned a talking shop called the "Open Technology Initiative" with funding from Public Knowledge, FreePress, Google's Open Internet Coalition, and Google itself.

So who better to receive a Public Knowledge award than...the Open Technology Initiative. As yet the NAF does not appear to have an awards ceremony with which to honour its sponsors: Google, Public Knowledge, Free Press. And it would be the height of ingratitude if it didn't return the favour.

So get cracking, lads. ®

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