Can we get cat-sharing sites to harden themselves against Iran's secret police?

In my latest Guardian column, "The internet is the best place for dissent to start," I look at Ethan Zuckerman's recent talk on the Internet and human rights, and the way that cute cats create the positive externality of a place for dissent to begin and flourish, and look at the problems this causes:

Zuckerman's argument is this: while YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (and other popular social services) aren't good at protecting dissidents, they are nevertheless the best place for this sort of activity to start, for several reasons.

First, because when YouTube is taken off your nation's internet, everyone notices, not just dissidents. So if a state shuts down a site dedicated to exposing official brutality, only the people who care about that sort of thing already are likely to notice.

But when YouTube goes dark, all the people who want to look at cute cats discover that their favourite site is gone, and they start to ask their neighbours why, and they come to learn that there exists video evidence of official brutality so heinous and awful that the government has shut out all of YouTube in case the people see it.

The internet is the best place for dissent to start


  1. Over the course of a series of writings, you appear to be developing the implications of an insight, that diverse, conflicting features of information technology belong together as an organic whole, and attempts to separate them are necessarily destructive.

  2. “The internet is the best place for dissent to start,”

    I can think of only one better place to start. Look at your hands. There. 

    In Cory’s case. Here. Thanks Cory.

  3. “And finally, we have to convince these businesses that it is in their interests to make the architectural changes that protect their users from arbitrary detention, torture and murder when they make the unplanned transition from cute cats to impromptu atrocity videographer.”

    Exactly. I’m thinking of facebook’s “real names” policy for one.

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