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Max Forte's List: Cyber-Activism

    • Clay Shirky is wrong to be upbeat about how technology is boosting Iran's democracy movement. If anything, it's helping the regime crack down
    • Read Clay Shirky’s response to this exchange here

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    • The internet is meant to help activists, enable democratic protest and weaken the grip of authoritarian regimes. But it doesn’t—in fact, the web is a boon for bullies
    • My homeland of Belarus is an unlikely place for an internet revolution. The country, controlled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, was once described by Condoleezza Rice as “the last outpost of tyranny in Europe.

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    • Written on November 19, 2009 <!-- by -->


      As some of you my know, my essay about the Internet in authoritarian states is the cover story of December issue of Prospect. Patrick Meier wrote a long post, raising some issues about my arguments

    • My remarks about the latter were actually used to indicate that by torturing activists, authorities can now get access to their passwords, social networks, inboxes, etc - and thus get hold of the entire networks. This actually only strengthens my argument that analogue activism was much safer.
    • The work that Nathan Freitas and others are doing to make communications more secure is important - no disagreement there.

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    • Activism has evolved.  Although the old fashioned means of door knocking, calling, protesting, and speaking out in public are still the most important element that can help shape the debate and change some undecided minds, we have a new realm where we can make a difference: the internet.
    • This chart displays how people share content in the web:
    • how ppl share content on internet

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    • New media has created significant  opportunities for advancing freedom in countries ruled by authoritarian  regimes.  It has expanded the space for free expression and facilitated civic activism.  But authoritarian regimes have pushed back.
    • While new media plays an important role in expanding free expression and  facilitating citizen engagement, it does not drive political change.  New media  alone cannot undermine authoritarian regimes.  Authoritarian regimes in the  former Soviet republics and elsewhere continue to repress their citizens, and  this repression extends to digital media.
    • In Belarus, authorities conduct surveillance on Internet users, and they  require cyber cafés to register each user’s browsing history.

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    • Political insurrection is never solely driven by technology. But it is profoundly changing the landscape of modern protest—in favour of those fighting for democracy
    • In Why the internet is failing Iran’s activists Evegeny Morozov argues that the protests which took place in the streets of Tehran in November 2009 may not have been triggered by social media—a sentiment with which I am in complete agreement.

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    • Media guru Clay Shirky responds to criticisms in Evgeny Morozov’s December cover story on why dictators benefit from the web. Despite pitfalls, he says, the internet remains a positive force for democracy
    • In Prospect’s December cover story, “How dictators watch us on the web”, Evgeny Morozov criticises my views on the impact of social media on political unrest. Indeed, he even says I am “the man most responsible for the intellectual confusion over the political role of the internet.” In part, I would like to agree with some of his criticisms, while partially disputing some of his assertions too.

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    • 03 November 2009
    • State Department on Civil Society 2.0 Initiative

      Initiative to help grassroots organizations use digital technology

      Office of the Spokesman
      For Immediate Release
      November 3, 2009

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    • How the U.S. State Department should enable and encourage social-networking sites in the global fight for freedom.
    • BY U.S. SEN. RICHARD G. LUGAR |   JANUARY 6, 2010
    • During the turmoil that followed Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election, thousands of opposition supporters and other protesters communicated and organized through Twitter. So important was this social networking site to supporting the pro-democracy "green movement" that the U.S. State Department contacted corporate representatives of Twitter to ask them to delay a routine maintenance shutdown of the microblogging site.

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    • By Will Heaven: December 17th 2009
    • What if Twitter had been around during the Spanish Civil War? Would George Orwell have journeyed to Catalonia to fight the fascists? Perhaps not. Judging by events in 2009, maybe “@GeorgeOrwell“ would simply have tinged his avatar red and used the hashtag #spanishcivilwar to undermine his Nationalist enemy.
    • This year has been a  good one for chubby armchair activists. They’ve found new outlets for their impotent do-goodery in social media. The use of Twitter during the Iranian post-election protests, for example, recently won a Webby Award (yes, really) for being “one of the top ten internet moments of the decade”. Let me tell you why I find that deeply depressing.

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    • Ian Urbina’s New York Times story
    • Urbina’s story is an example of advocacy journalism at its best. Armed with research conducted by Global Witness, a leading pressure group focused on increasing transparency in resource-rich countries, Urbina points to rules bent or ignored by two US government departments, the possible complicity of two US oil companies and the role played by a prominent Washington PR firm as the EG government’s paid apologists.


      So what?

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    • By Evgeny Morozov      
    • I've been taking quite a lot of heat lately for a somewhat promiscuous use of anecdotes in my quest to push against "Internet helps democracy" meme (see, for example, David Sasaki of Global Voices here and Patrick Meier of DigiActive here and here - Patrick's are responses to my cover story in the December issue of Prospect; I also responded to him already on my blog).
    • To summarize, in his two responses Patrick vehemently attacks me for basking in "anecdotal heaven" - as opposed, of course, to the "data hell" that he finds himself in - and does this probably a dozen times (and I do feel sorry for him - I hope Tufts, where he's completing his PhD, will compensate him adequately for this struggle against anecdotes).

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    • By Evgeny Morozov      
    • Below is the text of a talk about "slacktivism" - a subject that has received considerable attention on this blog and elsewhere - that I delivered at Festival Ars Electronica this morning (the session was dedicated to "cloud intelligence"). 
    • As someone who studies how the Internet affects global politics, I've grown increasingly skeptical of numerous digital activism campaigns that attempt to change the world through Facebook and Twitter.

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