MacKinnon & Mao on Censorship

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Web2008 On the Web 2.0 stage this week, Global VoicesRebecca MacKinnon talks about the Web’s Benevolent Dictators.

She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre, where she teaches “New Media.” A long history with Asia, she covered China and Japan for CNN for over ten years, as well as Taiwan, Korea, and Pakistan.


She realized in starting this initiative that they had to do this with foundation money rather than VC money. Global Voices represents voices from bloggers around the world – everywhere except for Europe and North America. “It is not enough to link to other bloggers,” she says, “we have to speak out for people’s freedom of speech. And, its not just in china where content is filtered. There are various levels of social and political filtering around the world.” And, more and more people who are speaking out are getting thrown in jail.


She shows us a blog editing screen for a post that could have should have been posted about Tiananmen Mothers.


After posting, the blogger receives a message that says: “Because it contains sensitive words, please wait for the community editors to approve it. Please don’t re-post.”


She notes that companies are being squeezed by governments and governments are being pressured to do things against human rights. She talks about the Global Network Initiative where the principles would set standards for freedom of speech while still engaging in markets. “There needs to be efforts from the industry to deal with these problems and the way to do a human rights assessment before an initiative goes live.”


She asks us, “are we over-relying on the Web 2.0 giants? Everyone is using gmail and then suddenly its blocked. We’re all using Skype and they claim our exchange is secure but it may in fact not be. Do we need to look at more grassroots alternatives? How do we hold these giants accountable?” Hear hear Rebecca.

Immediately following her talk, Chinese blogger Isaac Mao, founder of the Social Brain Foundation addresses the crowd.


In 2005, he started the movement for adopting Chinese bloggers on overseas servers. Mao is also a co-founder of and a co-organizer of the Chinese Blogger Conference (2005 in Shanghai, 2006 in Hangzhou). He is also known for his open letter to Google, challenging them to change its strategy on China.

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