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