GVO Summit, Day 4: Google Maps mash-up workshop

Global Voices Advocacy director Sami ben Gharbia is leading a workshop today on Google Maps mash-ups. The results of our first efforts:

View Larger Map

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GVO Summit, Day 2, Session 5

GVO Summit, Day 2, Session 3

Session 3: When Biases Meet Biases
The March 10 protests in Lhasa on the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule immediately won the sympathy and support of Western media outlets, bloggers, and human rights organizations. From the point of view of many Chinese bloggers, however, the international coverage of the protests boiled down to misinformed anti-Chinese sentiment. What can be done to encourage dialogue in times of such heated disagreement? How is the hegemony of truth constructed in the current global media ecology? What is the role of editorialized websites like Global Voices in presenting multiple perspectives on a single issue, while also adding context for an international, multilingual readership?

Moderator: Xiao Qiang

Rebecca MacKinnon, University of Hong Kong and Global Voices

tibetan protests/riots

protests around torch -- many people saw this as opportunity to protest widely -- many ppl around the world thought chinese citizens would support these protests b/c it's action against repressive govt., but chinese citizens were angry and called western media biased

anti-CNN web site created by chinese citizens

CNN cropped a photo from tibet that cut out a mob of tibetans throwing rocks (tibetans being violent back) -- just showed other part of photo

hoping that Internet will help prevent this sort of disconnect, but in this situation it was chinese talking to chinese and west talking to west -- no real understanding/compassion for others' views, it's "silos" -- alternative, isolated perceptions of reality

the concern is that the "West and China are creating parallel and separate spaces"

instruction video on YouTube for how to log in to Chinese version of Twitter and join conversation

have to do more than criticize & accuse

"if only they could get our information, have access to our info, they'd agree w/us" -- this is dangerous idea

lack of conversation is exacerbated by censorship: harder to post info about China from w/in China b/c it's blocked or censored

key: compassion & understanding

Xiao Qiang

Tibetan protests in March 2008 turned into riots, govt. blocked media

Chinese students abroad accused media of bias

govt. then released info about Tibetans attacking Chinese (which was true), blamed it on Dalai Lama (not necessarily true)

Internet played a dividing role, pushing ppl to extremes

John Kennedy, Chinese Language Editor, Global Voices

Tibetan police called "Chinese police" on CNN

antiCNN documented all of this, their site is in english & chinese

Olympics are an opportunity to push an agenda, but what agenda should bloggers be pushing?

questions to ask:

-- how different, really, are the different Chinese views on Tibet?

-- is there just one? multiple?

-- chinese view of "Free Tibet" protester who knows nothing about Tibet?

-- what & who do you disagree with?

-- which China do you disagree with?

-- what's the HK perspective on what happened in Tibet? some might consider their views more valid than those of mainland Chinese

-- are ppl in China overly sensitive?

-- how many ppl are willing to talk about human rights issues w/foreigners who have western view of human rights?

-- are all Chinese bloggers anti-CNN?

Isaac Mao, Entrepreneur and Researcher, China

we always think we're right

barriers come from lack of info, heightened by censorship

Rebecca MacKinnon

similar to Danish cartoon controversy -- how to bridge conversation?

Ethan Zuckerman

speech intended for one audience is becoming public -- challenge is to adapt your speech for a global audience


audience comment: "Change is not Viagra. We should not expect instant change."
John Kennedy: "Twitter is my Viagra."
Solana Larsen: "Viagra is cheaper on the Internet."

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GVO Summit, Day 2, Session 2

Session 2: The Wired Electorate in Emerging Democracies
The rise of blogging, social networking and micro-blogging services like Facebook and Twitter, video- and photo-sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr, and the spread of mobile technology have given ordinary citizens the means, at least potentially, to participate more fully in the democratic process. This session looks at the impact these tools have had on recent elections in Kenya, Venezuela, Armenia and Iran and poses the question: is citizen media having an actual impact on democracies in transition?

Moderator: Solana Larsen

GV as a hub for global info -- MSM comes to them and asks who they can talk to when crises happen

what makes bloggers feel responsible for citizen journalism? what makes them get up at 3 a.m.?

how was Twitter used? (Luis Carlos: I need Twitter b/c I speak a lot, I need a character limit, forces you to be creative & react immediately)

no one really seems comfortable with term "citizen journalism" -- do bloggers think of selves as journalists? (Onnik: it was journalists blogging, things were polarized and threats were made)

who are Iranians learning from (in terms of using social media)? -- Hamid: 60,000 Iranian bloggers, learn from multiple sources & from each other

Daudi Were, Kenya
Note: for more on blogging the 2007 Kenya elections, check out Ory Okolloh's talk from Day 1, Session 2

Kenyan elections: Kibaki (incumbent) vs. Odinga

around 800 bloggers (note to blogren: why do you think Kenya has so many more bloggers than Uganda? is it pure economics/technology, or are there a social/cultural reasons as well?)

SMS & Facebook used in elections -- esp. SMS, which was used for getting ppl to polls as well as for threatening messages

bloggers were constant presence during elections


mainstream media was under attack, which bloggers seemed to care more about than its own members did

challenges: bandwidth

bloggers in diaspora trying to raise $$ to buy machetes to send back to kenya

blog aggregator has been useful tool

citizen media faster than MSM, more frequently updated, can react more quickly and reach further (can be difficult b/c it can be used, intentionally or not, to spread rumors)

"bloggers are not aliens"

"Obama effect" -- copying from America

Onnik Krikorian, Armenia

Armenia is typical former Soviet republic of 3 million ppl

falsified elections since independence; haven't met international standards for democracy

president suspended constitutional term limits; former president returned to challenge -- he's popular among educated young ppl who were already blogging

blogging became political tool for first time in country

media is repressed/govt. owned

opposition protested election via blogs

20-day state of emergency declared on March 1, 2008, all information govt. controlled except for blogs

YouTube blocked, but bloggers moved to other services -- one video showed police shooting at protesters instead of up in the air, as they had claimed

president had his ppl set up a blog/web site

Internet penetration low, avg. salary $200/month and Internet connection $50/month -- but it's getting cheaper, and mobile phone tech. is getting better -- great potential

new president of Armenia just asked his press spokesman to meet w/bloggers to find out what they're all about

Hamid Tehrani, Iran

pro-reformist association of Iranian bloggers: Yarane Barad ("the friends of rain")

express ideas that aren't found in other media, critical of govt.

reform candidates banned from participating in elections

also non-reformist bloggers: reformist and non-reformist "mutually ignore each other" online

Luis Carlos Díaz, Venezuela

too much petroleum: good and bad, allows govt. to be independent b/c they have source of wealth

polarization: pro- or anti-Chavez, rich or poor

ppl. don't talk about politics

somewhere between 3000 and 60,000 Venezuelan blogs, 5.7 million Internet users, 27 million ppl

Elections3D: posts, photos & videos about the presidential elections: 2000 posts in 3 days

(this guy is great -- everyone in the room is laughing)

tagging is important for search engine optimization


Korea: many ppl supporting politicians through Internet, "elected through Internet," since election more than 1000 NGOs have been founded & a ton of new online activists, ppl. expressing opinions through internet....basically, is there a worry that the govt. may try to suppress citizen media surrounding elections, that ppl may become apathetic/stop trying, that excitement may wear off?

Onnik: in Armenia, penetration still low -- but it's growing and may play a huge role in next election. concern: when blogs were only medium during emergency, large NGOs started focusing on BLOGS w/o necessarily understanding them -- may change blogging landscape

Neha: not every blogger aspires to be a citizen journalist/write about politics, don't need to deride ppl who write for personal pleasure, it's okay to appreciate people for what they're passionate about, everything is important, shouldn't shun part of the blogosphere as being to banal

when sites are blocked: circumvent or use others (proxy sites or using DailyMotion instead of YouTube, for example)

someone commented on Ahmadinejad's blog: "you're stupid, i bet most of these comments are fake/propaganda"

Luis: Chavez doesn't have a blog

bloggers don't have problems w/govt. in Venezuela, not under surveillance -- challenge is bandwidth

David Sasaki: what are limits of media? (i.e. rwandan genocide, media contributed -- radio) -- what if you're streaming video of violence, and all of the sudden you're attracting ppl who want to participate in violence instead of condemn it?

Samir: will things be different/better the next time around, in terms of ethics?

-- Daudi: negative side of blogging in Kenya, post-election violence triggered by SMS in many cases

Alaa: SMS is so easy, you don't need to get online -- can just forward messages, don't need to subscribe

where does sense of responsibility come from? why do bloggers rise to the challenge in these situations?

Onnik: Armenian MSM is of terrible quality, "Armenian journalists would make great bloggers" (if you think blogs are based on opinion, not fact) -- was hoping blogosphere would fill this gap, but it was just as (or more) polarized, prob. contributed to clashes that eventually occurred

Daudi: ppl need to know that blogs aren't perfect, just as opinionated as people are

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GVO Summit, Day 2, Session 1

Today started with an introduction to Rising Voices, the outreach arm of Global Voices. A quick overview:

Session 1: Web 2.0 Goes Worldwide
The participatory web has, so far, been limited to the participation of select communities. Thanks to the steady proliferation of broadband connectivity and digital literacy campaigns throughout the developing world, however, some of the most exciting uses of online tools are now taking place in locations where, merely a decade ago, internet access was rare, if available at all. This panel will gather leaders of cutting-edge Web 2.0 initiatives from Colombia, Kenya, Bolivia, and Madagascar who seek to make the global conversation more representative of the global population.

Moderator: Lova Rakotomalala

Catalina Restrepo, HiperBarrio, Colombia

work through libraries to do new media training

project has united community, helped people make friends and write about their experiences

freedom to say what you want to say -- makes people happier, ability to speak out is directly related to happiness

violence has gone down, area now considered a beautiful, peaceful place

project facilitates integration of neighborhoods in Medellín -- not bordering neighborhoods but very similar, have a lot in common

Collins Dennis Oduor, REPACTED, Kenya

"community theatre" instead of "street theatre" -- "we don't have streets there"

REPACTED uses magnet theatre -- doesn't perform, but trains students to tackle own issues through theatre

open mic rapping -- improv, pick topics from basket

work in schools, prisons, etc.

Rising Voices allowed REPACTED to form group for HIV+ youth in prison, working with IDPs

Cristina Quisbert, Voces Bolivianas, Bolivia

Bloguivianos 2007 -- Bolivian blogger meeting

multiple blog workshops

writing about indigenous ppl in Spanish, now also in English -- enables her to share indigenous culture with English-speaking world

few ppl blogging about indigenous topics, few indigenous ppl blogging at all (even fewer women)

she writes about music, uploads videos

"sad moments": technical difficulties (old equipment, slow internet, etc.); insulting e-mails/comments; some ppl think she is a man

Mialy Andriamananjara, FOKO, Madagascar

founded by 4 bloggers after TED Africa 2007

challenges: few bloggers, expensive internet, electricity issues, blogging gets bad PR -- considered frivolous, something for teenagers/for ppl who want to stand out/want attention

emphasis on community in Madagascar

young, poor, sick not respected

skepticism: ppl didn't understand why you'd blog instead of feeding the poor

networked w/UN youth club, journalism school, peace corps volunteer

slow internet -- hard to upload vid/pics

150 blogs opened in 10 months, blog clubs in 3 major cities, alliance w/Ministry of Education for more digital literacy projects (but lack funding), publish some posts in English-language papers -- these bloggers get stipend

have "converted" some journalists to blogging

female bloggers coordinated reading of Vagina Monologues

one blogger mobilized help for boy born with physical deformity, coordinated medical assistance

learned to encourage bloggers, respect different learning curves

competition not always good, esp. in community-oriented society like Madagascar

comments are important

have "buddy system" -- pair in-country blogger with one in diaspora

future goals: set up new media center, web design workshops, help artisans get online, focus on women


what do you need? how can ppl help? how do you sustain projects and train so many ppl on such a small budget?

-- REPACTED needs help training ppl in web design, computer literacy; they have camera and are using it to tape weddings/birthdays to make $$

how can other ppl from other parts of the world help amplify the voices of indigenous Bolivians?

-- blogs are a solution, comments and visits help sustain bloggers

how does training work? how do you counter suspicions, address stigma surrounding blogs?

-- rely on networking, friends teaching friends, a lot of support from diaspora

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GVO Summit, Day 1, Session 4

Session 4: “Frontline Activists meet the Academy: Tools and Knowledge”

Roger Dingledine from Tor

Tor is anonymity system, program that you run locally that builds a relay path so that no single relay knows both where you're from and where you're going

initially funded by US Department of Defense, then by Electronic Frontier Foundation, Voice of America, InterNews, Google, a Dutch foundation (NL Net)

Tor helps it so that someone who's watching a user can't dictate where they can go -- evades filtering

projects: making it so it's less obvious when ppl are using Tor, six main IP addresses that are being used -- that makes it too easy for govts to find out who's using them

situation can't be solved with a purely technical approach -- many ppl believe that if content is censored by govt, it is bad

challenge: Tor is run locally on computer, so some ppl can't use

challenge: imposter versions of Tor that may actually make it easier for Internet use to be tracked

goal is to make it as usable as possible, available to the non-technically-minded

Nart Villeneuve of Citizen Lab

censorship circumvention is global

multiple tools -- knowing the specific threats you face will determine which tools you use

exporting of censorship -- US companies develop censorship technology & sell it to govts. in other countries

technologies: circumvention vs. anonymity, hybrid tools, public vs. private, open source vs. proprietary, free vs. pay, web-based vs. client

a lot of circumvention tools get you to a blocked site but don't necessarily shield your identity -- have to know what you need and what you're getting in terms of protection


aclu.org -- privacy protection in general, not just online

multiple guides exist to help choose technology that works best for you

Isaac Mao, Digital Nomads project, China

censorship central to Chinese life -- affects thoughts and actions (like what Au Wai Pang said about Singapore and psychology) even when ppl. leave country

three walls: free access, free speech, free thinking

have to work on technology, politics & media, and education/culture/self-censorship

in China, blog hosts "self-censor" bloggers

digital nomads: be independent, smart social hacking, backing by powerful Internet philosophy, collaborative & safe working model, foster freedom with "Sharism"

multiple services: co-location of hosting, CMS software installation, fast response to blocking, marketing with social media

$20 per year -- pretty cheap (non-profit), no text ads on the hosted sites

his web site is isaacmao.com, also had notisaacmao.com to evade censorship

Robert Guerra, Privaterra, Cuba

mission: helping orgs understand threats of using technology (including mobile devices, internet)

technology policy -- how govts. are limiting tech

issues: censorship (not just sites but e-mail), surveillance, hacking, blocking, take-down of sites

"portable spy that you have in your pocket" -- cell phone

Danny O'Brien, Electronic Frontier Foundation

tools used for circumvention often developed in a way that's opaque to the ppl using them, both culturally & geographically

so how to choose the tools you use?

decentralization power of the Internet: many tools are v. centralized (Google, for example) -- can be threatening

stay away from commercial products when it comes to circumvention -- Google's product is data for advertisers, not gchat or spreadsheets, and they collect data about users continuously to sell

open source is like a person stripping naked -- not hiding anything

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GVO Summit, Day 1, Session 3: Living with Censorship

Cross-published on Global Voices.

The first day of the Global Voices Summit focused heavily on censorship and its effects on bloggers. Session three examined what bloggers and other netizens who live in countries with government censorship do to evade and combat it. The session was liveblogged by Jillian York.

Awab Alvi, co-founder of the Don't Block the Blog campaign in Pakistan, moderated the session. Speaking were:


CJ Hinke opened the session with a brief overview of Internet censorship in Thailand. The first censorship law was passed in 1997. The law was intended to assist in the fight against the trafficking of women and children, but its terms were strict enough to open the door for more widespread filtering. In 2006, a new cybercrime law was passed that included the death penalty, a sentence later reduced to 20 years in prison.

Fifty thousand web sites are currently blocked in Thailand, CJ said. He questioned whether the number of sites matters and suggested that the principle is more important. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is anti-all censorship, and they have struggled to find supporters because many people believe that sites that distribute child pornography, objectify women or promote hate speech should be blocked.

Middle East and North Africa

Helmi Noman followed CJ's presentation by talking about the power shift that is currently taking place in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As more and more people have access to the Internet, the power to regulate social, economic and political activity is shifting from authorities to individuals. Governments are responding by cracking down on Internet use.

Censorship in the MENA region takes several forms, Helmi said. Some sites are blocked or filtered. Download speeds in some countries are controlled, effectively blocking access to movies and music. Finally, Internet cafés are often subject to strict regulations about screen placement and partitioning, ensuring that users' screens are visible to employees at all times.

Helmi Noman
Helmi Noman discusses Internet censorship in the Middle East and North Africa during the 2008 Global Voices Summit. Photo via madmonk.

Helmi noted that another obstacle to unfettered Internet use in the MENA area is social. Multiple studies and news articles have been released that focus on the negative effects, particularly the negative sexual consequences, of Internet on society. For example, one article claimed that many modern divorces are due to the amount of time men spend online looking at pornography.

There is some good news coming out of the region: multiple web sites now give tutorials on circumvention so users can access them after they are blocked. Yahoo! and other online groups are being used to exchange censored content, and a recent survey revealed that most Internet users in the region have used circumvention tools, especially proxy URLs, to access blocked sites.

Helmi ended his presentation by claiming that while filtering and censorship are problems in the MENA region, an even bigger issue is the digital divide. The gap between the actual and potential use of technology in the region is still large. Many people still lack Internet access, and those who do are clustered in urban areas.


John Kennedy used his presentation to inject hope and encouragement into the middle of an otherwise sober panel, focusing on several positive things happening online in China.

Among his examples was a mashup of air pollution in China [Zh], which is based on public records of pollution incidents and allows viewers to give feedback. Global Voices covered blogger reactions to the site last December.

Another creative success story was that of Zhang Shihe [Zh], a Chinese blogger who spent August 2007 bicycling through rural north central China to bring seldom-published stories from the area to the blogosphere via photo, video and written posts. Zhang began blogging out of frustration at the failure of Beijing police to properly document a murder crime scene, and continues to write about crime, the 2008 Olympics, and a variety of other topics.

Zhang Shihe
Chinese blogger Zhang Shihe on his month-long bicycle blogging tour through north central China. Photo via 24 Hours Online.

One of the most radical instances of blog activism in China took place after the house arrest and later imprisonment of environmental and political activist Hu Jia. While Hu was in jail, his wife Zeng Jinyan, who was documenting Hu's detainment on her blog, was put under house arrest with the couple's newborn child in the Freedom City housing complex in Beijing.

Hu and Zeng recorded the conditions of their surveillance in a documentary called "Prisoners in Freedom City," which was published on YouTube:

The conditions of the house arrest were so severe as to endanger the health of Zeng and the child, and Chinese bloggers and activists rallied to deliver baby formula and other supplies. After several failed attempts, one blogger succeeded, using the couple's documentary, Google Maps and blueprints of the building to hack past the surveillance system and deliver milk powder to Zeng. The entire process, including directions, security police license plate numbers, photos of the complex and a detailed description of the 24-hour mission, was compiled in a manual that quickly spread through the Chinese blogosphere.


In Bangladesh, Internet censorship is tied to the state of emergency instituted in January 2007, following riots and violence surrounding scheduled parliamentary elections. All criticism of the government is banned, and the press self-censors heavily, Rezwan reported. News of extrajudicial killings and detentions is rarely if ever published by the mainstream media, and several journalists have been arrested.

Bangla bloggers are fighting back, however, and a large citizen journalism community is publishing investigative reports online. Bloggers are so active, Rezwan said, that they were able to spread the news of the arrest of Tasneem Khalil, a former journalist and blogger, so efficiently that the government was forced to release him after one day. Rezwan pointed out that Global Voices broke the story to the international press and contributed to Khalil's release.


Andrew Heavens spoke of his experiences in Ethiopia, where the only internet service provider is state-run, text messaging has been blocked since May 2005 and a blanket block on the entire Blogspot domain is in effect. "Censorship is not just the basic fact of having your voice silenced," Andrew said, calling it a personal attack that is meant to limit and demoralize the person being censored, leading eventually to self-censorship.

Badge: This blog is blocked in EthiopiaAndrew sketched an outline of internet censorship in Ethiopia, which from 2004 to 2005 had a vibrant blogosphere. Protested elections in June 2005 led to mass arrests and police massacres, and the blogosphere exploded in anger. By May 2006, all Blogspot blogs were blocked. Initially, the block motivated bloggers. Many displayed "Blocked in Ethiopia" badges on their sites, and information on proxy servers and other methods of circumvention were shared between bloggers.

Within a few months, however, several formerly active bloggers had stopped writing, others had slowed, and the flow of new blogs had dried up. Andrew blamed this on the block and lamented the self-censorship the Ethiopian government's actions have created. Even more aggravating, he said, is the fact that the government refuses to acknowledge the blocking, calling it a technical glitch.


The focus of Yazan Badran's presentation was Tariq Biaisi [Ar], a Syrian blogger who was arrested for criticizing the Syrian security apparatus in an online forum, and detained for three years after being convicted of "weakening the national ethos." The government reacted so strongly to the case that Razan Ghawazzi, originally schedule to give this presentation, closed her blog and moved to Lebanon. Bloggers and activists campaigned for Biaisi's freedom via the Free Tariq movement, but the campaign was unsuccessful.

Free Tariq

Yazan credited the campaign's failure to its inability to engage average Syrian citizens. The concepts of activism, volunteerism and freedom of speech the campaign was based on were not well-defined and have little meaning in Syrian society, he said. The bloggers working on the campaign were mostly living abroad, which lent an elitist feel to the movement.

Social and economic concerns also contributed to the general apathy surrounding Biaisi's case, Yazan said. As an Islamist, Biaisi was not supported by a portion of the population. Many people wondered why they should support free speech when they were struggling to feed their families. Yazan concluded by conveying a comment from Razan, who believes that economic reform is the best way to strengthen support for free speech in Syria.

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GVO Summit, Day 1, Session 2

Session 2 is on citizen media and online free speech.

Wael Abbas (MisrDigital, Egypt)

Egypt is a "democratic charade" -- media subject to censorship, not allowed to start TV/radio station b/c state owns airwaves, closing newspapers, confiscating video/audio

"dire need for alternative source of media in Egypt that delivers information to the public, uncensored"

street protests not getting enough coverage (anti-govt), so bloggers started capturing it & delivering it to public -- erasing line between blogger and journalist

blogging in Egypt helped jumpstart/lead print media -- tackled taboo issues, exposed corruption -- papers use info from bloggers

Christian blogger/bloggers organizing sit-ins/demos have been shut down

character assassination by govt on bloggers -- accused of converting to Christianity, being gay

lots of YouTube use

Ory Okolloh, Kenya

covered post-election crisis in Kenya

media ban: blogging became more critical

the good: her blog wasn't shut down, no official censorship (perhaps b/c govt. didn't know or wasn't sophisticated enough to shut down), Kenyans generally able to blog freely

activists needed mobile phone credit during election crisis -- had doubled in price, was being used as currency -- shows importance of SMS/phones

journalists were contacting bloggers and having them publish information (both b/c of ban and because they were worried about govt. reaction)

tried to distinguish between fact & gossip -- lots of reports coming in during crisis

opened blog to comments -- gave access to ppl who weren't experienced bloggers

the bad: a lot of self-censorship in blogging community, partisanship, trying to be neutral -- affected tone of debate/credibility, voicing opinion can offend some people who might stop following information, internet access harder to get b/c mobility restricted by violence, phone credit expensive so Twittering hard -- have to choose between Twitter and talking to family

had to moderate comments for the first time -- comments intense and prolific, some threatening (and sexually violent: threats of rape, etc.) -- did fear for safety

Internet became a tool for Kenyans in diaspora

good work that some bloggers were doing was overshadowed by hate speech from others

Ushahidi -- developed to track post-election violence

Au Wai Pang (Alex), Singapore

involved in gay rights movement in Singapore

Internet mostly uncensored in Singapore, but ppl act like it's not -- "psychology trumps technology" -- how to overcome this?

media, trade unions both govt. controlled, detention w/o trial (up to 29 years), opposition members sued for libel

many people live comfortably -- don't think censorship is a big deal; focus is on career instead of politics/social issues

peer pressure: family, company pressure you not to speak out

govt. suspicious of Internet but doesn't censor b/c Singapore is business/financial center

how to alter psychology? ppl. need to participate offline, anonymity won't change society

Oiwan Lam, Hong Kong

political/historical context of censorship of "indecent" content in HK -- HK one of most "sexually repressive" places in the world

colonial regime: public order ordinance, restricted freedoms of speech and assembly, ordinances controlling "indecencies" usually prompted by local govt.

"sexy photo gate" -- netizen detained for 2 weeks w/o bail for publishing photos deemed "indecent"

statue of David classified as indecent

Amine, Morocco

YouTube video of police taking bribes from drivers (maker of video calls self "Targuist Sniper") -- in response, Morocco created anti-corruption commission, arrested several policemen

but then, tried to find Targuist Sniper -- arrested multiple people known to be internet-savvy, but while they were in jail, more videos were posted (oops)

is govt. reaction part of deep authoritarianism or more a misunderstanding of technology?

videos viewed by more than 1.5 million ppl on YouTube, almost 3.5 million if you count repostings of videos

other ppl started emulating tactic (in TanTan, Nador, Casablanca)

Morocco not "notoriously repressive," but it does have a strange relationship to Internet -- doesn't block blogs, but it is wary of web 2.0 tools (YouTube blocked for several days in 2007, Google Maps blocked for past 2 years)

Fouad Mourtada put in prison for posting a fake Facebook profile of the king's brother -- one of the questions he got during interrogation was, "why did you invent Facebook.com?" -- shows clear lack of understanding of Internet

Moroccan govt. denied protests, broadcast interviews that claimed everything was pleasant -- YouTube videos of violence contradicted official line

hard to know how govt. perceives Internet, but recently published magazine article says web 2.0 is "source of interference" between govt. and public, blogs have undeclared intentions and are published w/o rules or professionalism

Hamid, Iran

Iranian censorship, both on- and offline, has increased in last few years: he joked that it creates jobs

Iranian govt. announced that 10 million sites have been blocked, 90% for immoral content (including photos of Nicole Kidman)

blogs by women heavily filtered

Note: You can also watch a live feed of the summit, follow those who are twittering from it, look at the slides, and check out the photos and live blog.

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GVO Summit, Day 1, Session 1

I'm in Budapest this weekend for the 2008 Global Voices Citizen Media Summit. You can watch a live feed of the summit, follow those who are twittering from it, look at the slides, and check out the photos and live blog.

Some quick notes from the first session on working toward a global anti-censorship network (typing quickly, will come back and edit later):

Andrei Abozau, Belarus

situation in Belarus: "Big Brother is watching you"

(note: more about censorship/filtering in Belarus available through the OpenNet Initiative)

censorship hurting legal business activities

the more that is known about censorship, the less the govt. will be able to oppress

Alaa Abdel Fatah, Egypt

Egypt using courts to block free speech (as opposed to technical Internet censorship)

Facebook activist tortured, both to get him to stop & to get him to give up his password

creating atmosphere of fear to induce self-censorship

vid of protest, not shown on TV (including BBC) -- ppl trying to tear down poster of president mubarak: "it was filmed by phone camera. i love nokia."

if you want to help free speech in Egypt, you can't be isolated from bigger struggle (of govt. repression/torture)

blogs document torture w/photos, personal accounts

blogger documenting factory polluting lake w/industrial waste -- company took him to court for libel (libel laws designed by govt. to protect govt. -- can spend 3 yrs in prison for libel)

there is due process, perfectly legal, doesn't look like censorship/oppression -- still bad b/c consequence is bad, not b/c process is bad

process can be painful, can be arrested during trial -- enough pressure to create self-censorship

international trend for internet censorship through courts -- most free speech advocates don't know how to handle, assume that courts & rule of law are both good

* do bloggers need legal help from outside their countries?
* are bloggers above the law? do they make mistakes, or should we always support them when they're taken to court?

Chris Salzberg, Japan

Japan different from other examples b/c Internet is mostly open

what does censorship mean in Japan? filtering content seen as harmful to society (not just child porn, but other things)

copyright legislation -- want to make it illegal to download, not just upload

mobile phone access -- already being filtered in japan for ppl. under 18

bill just passed (June 11th): PC makers must pre-install national filtering software on PCs & phones

GLBT & political & religion -based content filtered for ppl under 18

filtering seen as social issue (not political) -- parents worried about kids, mobile phone access

support for regulation in japan quite high (76% support filtering "harmful content")

opposition strategies: regulation will stop innovation, creativity -- japan will be left behind/outcompeted, proposals are technologically contradictory

oppression not seen as govt. thing -- people (death threats, net bullying, obscenity, copyright violation)

Awab Alvi, Pakistan (Don't Block the Blog)

strategies for getting around massive blogspot block in Pakistan: proxy servers (pkblogs.com), javascript & greasemonkey

lots of aggregation: bloggers.pk, vid.pk

Musharraf attacked judicial system -- overthrew 60 judges, blocked TV, arrested journalists -- citizen/online media replacing papers/TV

SMS/text messaging has great potential -- cheaper and more widely available than computers/online blogging, need to focus on building mobile community

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Northern Uganda: a starting point

In my efforts to pay more regular attention to the ongoing conflict in northern Uganda, I've been spending a lot of time on these web sites:

The Uganda Conflict Action Network has been posting near-daily updates about the conflict since June 2005.

A month-by-month description of the peace talk process and of the status of peace and reconciliation (these overlap a lot; anyone know why they aren't merged?) can be found at USAID's Virtual Presence Post: Northern Uganda.

The Beyond Juba Project looks beyond the peace talks and the conflict in northern Uganda to address larger issues of sustainable national reconciliation. It is a joint initiative of the Refugee Law Project, the Human Rights and Peace Center and the Makerere University Faculty of Law.

A photo essay about the six days photographer Erin Baines spent with the LRA in Nabanga, Sudan in August 2006: "How does one prepare to meet the world's most wanted man? Should I have at least brushed my hair that day? He told me it was nice to meet me. I think I smiled stupidly the whole time. It hardly seemed appropriate."

I also wrote earlier about my northern Uganda reading list. If a book and a cup of coffee are more your style, this is a good place to start.

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Landscape and character in northern Uganda

One of my strongest memories from Uganda is riding the bus between Kampala and Gulu, watching the land — green, thick, damp and hilly in Kampala, at times stifling and claustrophobic — flatten out to meet the bright, open sky. It always felt good, no matter what meetings I had ahead of me or what I had left behind in Kampala.

Future home of KPC Gulu
from Flickr via Snaptography

In an essay titled "Landscape and Character," Lawrence Durrell, a novelist and travel writer whose works I devoured in Uganda, claimed that "human beings are expressions of their landscape." Land is a central part of the northern Ugandan conflict; the Acholi, for the most part, are subsistence farmers, and being separated from their land and herded into Internally Displaced Persons camps has ruined their economy and their social structure. Not a difficult thing, to be tied to your land, when your land is as beautiful as northern Uganda. On the bus I always wondered what Uganda would have been like if Kampala had looked like Gulu, or vice versa.

Earlier this month, DeTamble and Gay Uganda both linked to BBC's special feature on the war, an interactive map of the destruction the conflict has wrought in a single village near Lira, Uganda.

BBC's mash-up of a map, complete with individual huts and trees, and individual accounts from community members of the war's toll on their households brought the conflict back in a way that I hadn't experienced since I was last in Gulu. When I started this blog, I wrote extensively about the conflict, about Joseph Kony, about the International Criminal Court and traditional reconciliation rituals. When I left Uganda, I kept writing, but for some reason — the land in Kansas? — I stopped writing about northern Uganda. My last substantive post on the conflict was almost a year ago. I'm going to try to remedy that this week.

On another note, tonight I've been listening to Exile, an album by northern Ugandan musician Geoffrey Oryema. Oryema's father was a cabinet minister who was murdered by Ugandan security forces during Idi Amin's reign. Exile, at least according to Wikipedia, chronicles the singer's subsequent flight from Uganda in 1977. As I've listened and read through the BBC feature I've been wondering what landscapes Oryema remembers from Uganda.

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Museveni in Kansas

Museveni was at Fort Leavenworth, about 30 miles away from where I live in Kansas, yesterday to celebrate his son's graduation from the Command and General Staff College.

It's a small world.

If either the Monitor or the New Vision covered the story, it hasn't made it online, though an earlier article calls Major Muhoozi Kainerugaba a possible "head of state in the near future."


No. Hell, no.

I leave town for ONE WEEK, and Joseph Kony has to go and announce a new offensive.

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