The Blog — Access to Information
While Internet, mobile, and landline communication in Syria has been shutdown, Movements.org resources are available to bypass blockages.
From Syrian Sit-Ins on YouTube, to the worldwide Occupy movement, and the continued events following the transformative Arab Spring, web censorship rises as a prominent issue and concern for current social movements around the world. To share information between organizers and supporters through communication technologies has become, in some countries, risky and intensely challenging. A notable option to accessing blocked information and communicating securely is circumvention technology. Through the plethora of technologies available, digital activists of various movements and issues can both share their information with the world and mobilize within their country for change.
Ever since social networks have come under greater scrutiny for their role in the Arab Spring -- and indeed in the U.K. riots -- repressive governments have been scrambling to find ways to rein in the unruly kids and their social networks.
Shutdowns aren’t always good things (except in times of crisis) as they generate bad headlines, so instead there has been a push from some governments to create their own sanitized networks. A new social network called Muloqot is being launched in Uzbekistan in conjunction with the state telecom monopoly. Muloqot can be translated as “dialogue” or “conversation”.
Wael Abbas used his blog and online video to build public awareness aourd the repressive climate in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak's rule.
Since 1994 Belarus has had the same President, Alexander Lukashenko. Under Lukashenko's rule, Belarus has emerged to be viewed as a state whose conduct is out of line with international law and whose regime is considered to grossly violate human rights. Young activists in the Soviet republic have been the driving force behind this growing physical presence of discontent across the country. Will this lead to a full-blown revolution?
This morning Telecomix reported that Syria had gotten "a major censorship upgrade. SSL TOR VPNs blocked. Skype & phones tapped. What was safe yesterday is not safe today." It's not totally clear where they have gotten their information from (will update) but it is clear that the international network of hackers and online activists are moving into action. Remember that these are the folks who connected with European ISPs to give Egyptians access to the web via landline dial ups during the 5 days of no internet there, and have been similarly helpful in other loss-of-access situations throughout the Arab Spring.
What are people doing on the internet? Who regulates this behavior? How?
As the past few months have demonstrated, these are questions with lots of repercussions for online activism. That’s why it’s worth noting that the world’s 8 wealthiest countries are about to tackle them at an event in France. The EG8 meeting, put together by France’s President Sarkozy, will precede the annual G8 conference. It will, according to Reuters, “focus on how to harness the economic potential of the Internet and foster innovation, while protecting intellectual property rights."
Events in North Africa and the Middle East have captured the world's attention and once again brought the issues of state censorship and information freedom to the forefront. Activists around the world daily face challenges of disseminating information and starting alternative dialogues. These two case studies illustrate how activists in two countries with very different political and economic climates, as well as differing levels of media and speech freedoms circumvent government censors and open avenues for communication.
After 3 days of demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir (Independence) Square, and ahead of a large protest planned for the upcoming Friday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak decided to revoke citizens' access to the world wide web.
Twitter had been flooded with Tweets tagged with the hashtag for the uprising, #Jan25, and the admins of a network of Facebook pages were keeping one another, Egyptians, and the world abreast of what was happening with a regular stream of images, videos and text updates.
After the Egyptian government shut down all but one of the country's Internet Service Providers (ISPS), how would information about the protests reach the world? And if it didn't, would Mubarak's military dictatorship be granted impunity to crack down on protesters with brutal force?
As the likelihood of a similar internet shut off increases in still roiling Syria, check out our new case study on how global civil society marshaled its resources to help Egyptians stay online.
Small World News helps people on the ground in conflict zones share their stories with the world. One of their projects, Alive.in, began with a media training program and citizen media platform in Baghdad, Iraq, and they have most recently launched Alive.in programs in Libya, Bahrain, and Egypt. In Egypt the project partnered with Google's Speak 2 Tweet project to translate the voice messages coming out of Tahrir Square when the internet was cut off. Below are some examples of the media that has emerged from the Alive.in team's work these past few weeks.