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Technologists agree with Clinton, say Internet freedom wins in long run

Here’s what technologists say about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom: she’s right.

Not only because they agree that cyber hackers should be punished and that censorship is bad. Clinton is correct, they say, that censorship won’t succeed in completely clamping down systems and preventing the exchange of information over the Web. They are only temporary measures and, with just a few exceptions -- North Korea comes to mind -- won’t ultimately win.


Photo Credit: Jack Dorsey, Twitter

The revelation from post-election demonstrations in Iran last summer was that people on the ground found ways around network censors to circulate pictures, videos and Tweets to the rest of the world, says Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter. During the Iranian New Year, a video greeting from President Obama was circulated underground in Tehran and went viral.

“There are always workarounds to everything. Every security in a sense can be taken down given enough time and cleverness and smarts,” Dorsey said in an interview last week. “It’s just constant iterations and just paying attention to new holes that are exposed.”

Dorsey has worked with the State Department’s senior adviser on innovation, Alec Ross, to consult on projects like a campaign in Mexico where citizens can anonymously warn law enforcement officials of drug violence through text messages.

Twitter has been focused on wireless phones – the most popular Internet and communications devices in the developing world – to see how its microblogging site can be used to connect anyone with a phone and a Web browser. Clinton said she sees the 4.6 billion mobile phones in the world as part of her strategy for economic development, preventing violence against women and children, and ending conflict.

After Clinton’s her Internet speech, Microsoft, Yahoo and tech trade groups hailed her push for Internet freedom.

Clay Shirky, a professor of new media studies at New York University and a popular blogger, said countries like China are conflicted. On the one hand, they want to control the information residents receive and send. But on the other hand, they want to encourage the adoption of cellphones, computers and Internet services because those systems fuel economic growth.

China locked down Internet, broadcast and other communications services after earthquakes two years ago, hoping to slow the spread of news that poor school construction contributed to the high death toll, Shirky said. But outraged parents in China still learned of the construction flaws--mere hours or days later than they would have if communications systems were open.

Countries that have a censorship strategy "are suffering from a technological auto-immune disease,” Shirky said. “They are only delaying the spread of media and attacking their own infrastructure.”

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 25, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  International  
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Comments

...and again, Cecilia Kang neglects to mention that the Administration has conspicuously NOT condemned censorship in countries where political contributor Google is still engaged in active censorship, such as India.

Posted by: squirma | January 26, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

There are so many people willing to do so many things to keep the internet exclusive and not fully functional for all individuals. Most people don't really care about any one besides themselves in America for the most part. Some have some big groups, which makes it look as if they have right and that is democratic, two voices shouting down one means they win here. Some use their technology as a form of a power play again to make sure that their voice is the one and only one that is heard, that the money that might be made on the net flows to them. Many don't care who it harms or how. They don't care to hack you and steal your ideas either. When you kid yourself into believing that the internet is for all people and that all people in America are honest and not out to do whatever they want to on the internet including hacking, sending viruses and trojans to tear up others computers, and using other people's computers without them knowing it then the joke is on you. If anyone is lead into believing that the internet is a safe place to post personal ideas or thoughts, they need to forget it. Our lives have been full of competetion from A to F forever now and there are always going to be those that are friends and those that are willing to cheat to get the grades, and the computer is simply one more vehicle full of corruption and confusion. We all like to get on it and think or hope that we have a fair shot, that isn't so nor is it likely to ever really be so. You know it really is true, I had to go through about fifty rounds of trying to post this here. You can't lock people out and then say that you want the internet to be for all. It just doesn't work that way. Sorry.

Posted by: mama_jane_4_2000 | January 26, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Actually China is right.... Lets stop bashing China about what it blocks from its citizens, the Free Internet should embrace its censorship in a special circumstance which is - Those who censor the free internet should be banned from its use.

Simplest solution is to block China from using the free world's internet. If they want a censored web that conforms to their laws they should be forced to make their own and not be pernitted to trample over and mutilate what was invented for and is dedicated for the free world. The World Wide Web.

Posted by: MoonChain | January 29, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

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