4 posts about freespeech

RIP: The Committee to Protect Bloggers(?)

Jan 12 2006

The Committee to Protect Bloggers is shutting down! Can anyone help?

If you are an individual or a company with sufficient funds to sponsor the Committee's activities for a year, please contact committeetoprotectbloggers(at)gmail(dot)com. Website: http://committeetoprotectbloggers.civiblog.org/

The CPB has long been (um, in internet terms, I mean, that being all of 2005) a great resource for finding information about "blogging under fire." From their website, the CPB has several main purposes:

1.) A clearinghouse for information on incarcerated members of our community, as well as those whose lives have been taken from them because of their enthusiasm for the free exchange of information that blogging allows.

2.) A pressure group to force governments to free imprisoned bloggers, and make restitution for tortured and murdered ones.

3.) CPB will bring to bear the formidable communicative power of the blogosphere to keep pressure on governments to stop arresting and abusing bloggers and to mitigate or reverse measures designed to restrict speech.

4.) CPB will act as direct agents in negotiations to free imprisoned bloggers.

If you are interested and able, please visit their site or email them.

(FYI. I have no connection to CPB)

The "Dissident" Blogger Handbook

Sep 22 2005

Reporters Without Borders has today released a wonderful handbook of international blogging. The 84-page guide includes sections that discuss the basics of blogs and blogging terminology, and it moves quickly into a serious how-to guide for blogging anonymously and blogging successfully. This is a first for the international blogging community, and I am certain that it will receive an extremely warm welcome.blog guide

The guide begins with general discussion of the role of blogs and basic blogging terminology. This is hardly revolutionary coverage, but the writing is solid, with sections from very reputable sources in the international online media scene.

There is also a good section on choosing the right blogging platform, getting things setup to make the search engines happy, and a lot of serious advice on "making your blog shine."

There are a few problems in the text, notably the failure to mention several key blogging platforms available for international use. (They mention MSN but not Typepad??) Also, I think there is not adequate description of the differences between a hosted blog service (Like Blogger) and a blogging platform that you have to install on your server (Like Movable Type.)

But by far the most inspiring part of the handbook (an it is as a whole quite inspiring) is it's selection of personal accounts from "famous" international bloggers, including selections from a female blogger in China, a writer in Iran, a wonderfully disaffected journalist in the U.S., and a Bahranian blogger who prides himself on "breaking the government's news monopoly."

Keeping with the audience-first nature of blogs, everything is eminently readable, with spunky illustration by Nuit de Chine.

This is not a handbook for making money with your blog; it's a serious look at the tools that are available for people who are otherwise not encouraged to communicate. It is for newsmakers without news outlets and people making news who don't make headlines.

That's a refreshing break from the wealth of blogging how-tos in the developed world. Those documents may be useful, but they don't have the kind of detail that you find here for really getting a blog started in China, Nepal, Iran, etc. In this way, the "How to Blog Anonymously" chapter by Ethan Zuckerman must be considered the most important single part of the document. As an online community, there is nothing stopping us from perfecting and distributing tools for subverting government chokeholds on IP addresses.

I am very excited by the guerrilla-free-speech innovation documented here.

As Rebbecca MacKinnon has written, "Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest."

This handbook is groundbreaking both symbolically and technically, and I think it safe to say that it will evolve to address it's very few shortcomings. Hopefully it will be re-released regularly, with updates of all the wonderful things that are going on in the blogosphere, new home of the free international press.

Yahoo Participates in Chinese Censorship

Sep 19 2005

screenshot chinese yahoo

Recently, the mega search engine Yahoo! collaborated with Chinese authorities in jailing Chinese journalist Shi Tao for allegedly distributing state secrets. Apparently Yahoo has taken the initiative to provide the journalist's email address and IP address in order to link him to posts and emails that he was making while distributing information. Why is Yahoo participating in the Chinese censorship program?

Because it's good business. Yesterday Rebecca MacKinnon took the time to illustrate exactly what it's like to search for "Tiananmen Massacre" on the Chinese Yahoo.

An Authoritarian "Third Way" on the Internet

Jul 9 2005

There's an old dream held by certain Englishmen of the Enlightenment: the perfect prison, the panopticon. In the panopticon, every cell can be seen into by a single guard standing in the center tower. But the prisoners can't see into the guard tower. The prisoners begin to monitor themselves; they must assume that they are always being watched.

The regulation of the internet has become just such a panopticon in China, where about 100 million regular internet users are dealing with an extremely sophisticated network of monitors and police-state software that regulates their activity.

Worse, it appears that a rather large industry has grown up around the censorship, because all businesses realize they've got a lot to lose if their employees get busted for reading about human rights at work. So corporations, like individuals, are participating in their own punishment.

It was interesting to note that this is all wholly different from (and much more successful than) other authoritarian countries, which regulate by simply restricting access. Here's a bit form the article:

"Its filtering system has become at once more refined and comprehensive over time, building a matrix of controls that stifles access to information deemed illegitimate by authorities," said a study released April 14 by the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership among scholars at Harvard Law School, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University. China's rulers foster the impression of an all-encompassing ability to monitor Internet usage. Arrests of Internet "subversives" are widely reported. And no one denies persistent but unconfirmed reports that as many as 30,000 government employees toil at monitoring Internet traffic. "They want you to think that every bit of your activity is tracked. That's what has everybody nervous. If they say something in a chat room, will they get in trouble?" said Anne Stevenson-Yang, who until recently headed the U.S. Information Technology Office, a nonprofit trade group in Beijing representing U.S. information technology businesses operating in China. As Internet usage explodes, billion-dollar businesses have emerged, offering gateways, news sites, auctions and other services. Private Internet tycoons, reliant on government approval and fearful of criminal prosecution, ensure that online postings don't broach sensitive topics. They hire online moderators with lightning-fast fingers on the "delete" key.

Read the Entire Article (via Wichita Eagle): KRT Wire | 07/13/2005 | In China, sophisticated filters keep the Internet near sterile