An article from FT highlights that it’s not just China that’s blocking web and Internet access. Repressive regimes elsewhere in the world, and notably, in the Middle East, are responsible for an increasing trend in blocking access to websites dealing with rights, freedom of expression, social networking and even sites like YouTube.
Elsewhere in the world, there are examples of how innovative techniques, such as the use of mobile phones in Zimbabwe, is beating the reach of the censor. Even in the Middle East, reports indicate that the growth of blogging is increasing the terrain for democratic debate and dissent online, despite the best efforts of governments to clamp down of those who engage in such activities. And while HRW’s Human Rights Report in 2007 reports damned the Chinese government for its restrictive policies on the web and Internet, there are good indications that new websites are helping citizens capture gross rights abuse in their countries, which would have otherwise gone undocumented.
One of the countries the FT story doesn’t highlight is France, which as recently took very disturbing moves to limit the nature of content citizens could post online, creating quite a stir amongst internet rights activists. And though last year I went into detail on how the web and internet could overthrow repressive regimes, Julian Pain from RSF tempered the heady optimism with a dose of reality.
In short, citizens in many countries around the world are desperate for a revolution, and it is still my firm belief that technology, though it may not be neutral, will secure and strengthen the work of pro-democracy and pro-rights activists far more than it will aid governments clamp down on them.