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
Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine has a history of blocking his critics on social media, including Grant Stern, who runs the Photography is Not a Crime group.
Facebook — which accounts for as much as 75% of the traffic to popular websites — tweaked its algorithm to downrank those same publishers, who had been engaged in an arms-race to dominate Facebook users’ feeds through techniques intended to gain high rank in Facebook’s secret scoring system.
The Ecuadoran Embassy in London has confirmed Wikileaks’ accusation that it terminated Julian Assange’s access to its wifi network because it disapproved of Assange and Wikileaks’ “intervention in the affairs of other states” by publishing material pertaining to the impending US election.
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