AccessNow, an NGO that works for human rights values in telcoms policy, took a resolution to the Vodafone Board meeting in London last week, holding the company to account for its network shutdown during the Egyptian revolution and asking it to endorse a plan to uphold its customers' human rights in future.
"I am asking this question as a proxy and on behalf of thousands of people from over 85 countries who have endorsed this question to the Vodafone Board.
Our question is, in recognition of the challenges that you and other telcos faced during the Egyptian revolution and the lessons you’ve learned from this experience might you be better prepared for any future crises - which is undoubtedly in the wings - by committing to doing a human rights assessment of your licensing agreements in the roughly 70 countries you operate in, to ensure that, for example, you are both able to protect your staff and the integrity of the network, but not in the position of having to once again shut down the internet or send pro-regime messages to your customers as happened earlier in the year in Egypt?
I would like to present you with a five step action plan, consistent with the GNI principles, which we believe would assist you to protect Vodafone's brand and shareholder's profits and ask that you consider adhering to the practices outlined in the action plan."
In addition to prolonging the misery and bloodshed of the Egyptian revolution, Vodafone's network shutdown also resulted in the death of Egyptians who couldn't use their phones to call ambulances during medical emergencies. Not to mention all the money the shareholders lost when millions of Egyptians lost their phone service.
Access’ Questions Vodafone’s Board At Annual Shareholders’ Meeting
(Image: vodafone in Egypt, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from emiemihuimei's photostream)
My latest Guardian column, "Networks are not always revolutionary," argues that networks are necessary, but not sufficient, for many disruptive commercial, cultural and social phenomena, and that this character has led many people to either overstate or dismiss the role and potential of networked technology in current events:
"For most artists," as the famous Tim O'Reilly aphorism has it "the problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity." To me, this is inarguably true and self-evident - the staying power of this nugget has more to do with its admirable brevity and clarity than its novelty.
Networks are not always revolutionary
And yet, there are many who believe that O'Reilly is mistaken: they point to artists who are well-known, but who still have problems. There are YouTube video-creators who've racked up millions of views; bloggers with millions of readers, visual artists whose work has been appropriated and spread all around the world, such as the photographer Noam Galai, whose screaming self-portrait has found its way into everything from stencil graffiti to corporate logos, all without permission or payment. These artists, say the sceptics, have overcome obscurity, and yet they have yet to find a way to convert their fame to income.
But O'Reilly doesn't say, "Attain fame and you will attain fortune" - he merely says that for most artists, fame itself is out of their grasp.
According to this unsourced photo-magnification, Hosni Mubarak's swanky pinstriped suits were made from custom fabric whose "stripes" were Mubarak's name, printed in tiny letters, over and over again. I have no idea if this is shooped -- on the one hand, it is the kind of thing a loony dictator might revel in; on the other hand, why wouldn't he get his name woven in Arabic
script? (And on the third hand, maybe getting your name custom-woven into your suit's stripes in a foreign alphabet is the Egyptian dictator's equivalent to westerners who get random Japanese characters tattooed on their nethers).
Oh hey, Mubarak. Nice pinstripes. Wait, what? Oh shit, those pinstripes are actually your name spelled over and over again. You're a douche, no doubt, but that is some serious despot swag.
How To Talk To Girls At Parties
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!
How Tahrir Square's protestors shared their power: an exuberant spaghetti, wall-warts, and charging handiphones of all variety.
Ian's, a pizzeria near the Wisconsin state capitol that is sympathetic to the demonstrators, has been facilitating the process of supporters around the world who want to send pizza to the protest. They've fielded an order from Egypt -- now that's solidarity.
The blackboard behind the counter lists the "countries donating" as "Korea, Finland, New Zealand, Egypt, Denmark, Australia, US, Canada, Germany, China, England, Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy" and has the abbreviations for all 50 states listed below, with donating states circled.
From Cairo to Madison, some pizza
(Thanks, Nextnik, via Submitterator!
(Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from wrestlingentropy's photostream)
Mosa'ab Elshamy -- a photographer and pharmacy student who attended the Tahrir Square rallies in Egypt -- describes the volunteer-run kindergartens that spontaneously popped up in the square to care for the children who came with their families for the rallies:
It's difficult to estimate numbers, but I think not less than 10 percent of those present in Tahrir were families. They added a special spirit to what we started calling Republic of Tahrir. Some of the kids would do their own marches around the square, with people applauding and smiling at them. They were quite an integral part of the place and everyone took care of them. When Tahrir would get crowded and a kid got lost from his parents for a while, we would quickly mention their name in the large microphones set in the square and the parents would easily find them.
Did You Know There Was a Pop-Up Kindergarten in Tahrir Square?
I wouldn't say the kindergarten idea was set up by specialists. But there were people of all professions in Tahrir which obviously included teachers. But many of those working on the kindergarten were ordinary mothers who would take care of the kids and look over them while they were painting or reading. It was usually set in the safest area of the square, just in case anything would happen, and the kids were being kept at a distance from any possible tension. But obviously it wasn't professionally set up. I mean, it didn't have working hours or a fixed schedule, because the place was quickly developing and changes were taking place from day to day. Still, the main core was maintained and any kid could join, play with others for some time, and indulge in children's activities for a while. It was quite heartening to say the least.
(Thanks, Rufusstripe, via Submitterator!
(Image: children creating art in tahrir, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Yasmin Moll's photostream)
Over on the Play This Thing games review blog, JZW wants to know why no one has made a game built around nonviolent revolutions.
Modern non-violent revolutions are very dramatic, very to the point, have excellent pacing, and are a perfect example of asymmetric struggle. You can interpret them as the state versus the people, or dictatorship versus the republic. But their most important aspect is the struggle between centralised technologies of the industrial age and distributed technologies of the information age. The state uses armed forces and television. The people uses crowd psychology and communication networks. The state exerts control by giving orders and withholding information. The people exerts control by spreading information and defying orders.
Tahrir: The Game (Play This Thing)
It's also a fresh new challenge gameplay-wise, because you don't get to give direct orders, and the situation can spin out of your control easily. You reach your goal by nudging people in the right direction one step at a time, giving them tools they need, and keeping them connected. It's far more organic and fuzzy than the kind of direct control you can find in a first person shooter or a real-time strategy.
(Image: Feb4-12:49pm, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 89031137@N00's photostream)
Goldline International, the gold company promoted by Glenn Beck on his show--and which is under investigation by a U.S. congressional committee--would like you to know that death and destruction in Egypt makes their product more valuable. From my inbox:
Gold prices were up over $18 as of 9:33 Pacific Time today on the New York Spot Market as increasingly violent protests in Egypt continue to spook markets globally. Gold is regarded by many analysts as a "safe haven" asset during uncertain economic and geopolitical times.
"There are latent geopolitical worries stemming from Egypt and the Middle East in general," said Jim Steel, senior vice president and metals analyst with HSBC in New York. Egypt has been in turmoil in the last week as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's administration has come under fire, and worries have surfaced about the unrest spreading to other Middle Eastern nations. Standard & Poor's Corp., Fitch Ratings, and Moody's Investors Service downgraded Egypt's ratings this week.
"We think that the price of gold could resume its climb due to reduced risk appetite as the global recovery falters and new shocks hit the financial system," Capital Economics said in a report.
Gold was also bolstered by comments about rising euro-zone inflation from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, who said officials are monitoring rising price pressures. **
Have questions about acquiring gold and silver today? Call a Goldline Account Executive...
Those familiar with the Glenn Beckalypse
where only gold will save us, etc., will hardly be surprised.
: Kenneth Cole got himself
some of that unrestvertising action!
editor Charles Arthur riffs on the London police's habitual underestimation of crowds at protest marches in this Egypt-themed tweet: "BREAKING: protesters pack every street and square in Cairo. Met Police estimate crowd at 'nearly 5,000.'"
Protests are raging throughout Egypt today, the largest mass demonstrations yet demanding an end to the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Thousands took to the streets today, after Friday Prayers.
Read the rest
Excellent snark from Graham Linehan, regarding Malcolm Gladwell's infamous pooh-poohing of Internet activism
: "Malcolm Gladwell would love to comment on all that's happening in The Middle East, but his fax machine is in the shop."
Malcolm Gladwell would love to comment on all that's happening in The Middle East...
US vice-president Joe Biden told PBS NewsHour that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (who as presided over a 29 year reign characterized by blatantly stolen elections, suspension of civil liberties, torture and arbitrary detention) isn't a dictator and questioned the legitimacy of protesters' demands. The USA provides $1.3 billion/year in military aid to the Mubarak regime.
Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: "Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with - with Israel. ... I would not refer to him as a dictator..."
Joe Biden says Egypt's Mubarak no dictator, he shouldn't step down...
Biden urged non-violence from both protesters and the government and said: "We're encouraging the protesters to - as they assemble, do it peacefully. And we're encouraging the government to act responsibly and - and to try to engage in a discussion as to what the legitimate claims being made are, if they are, and try to work them out." He also said: "I think that what we should continue to do is to encourage reasonable... accommodation and discussion to try to resolve peacefully and amicably the concerns and claims made by those who have taken to the street. And those that are legitimate should be responded to because the economic well-being and the stability of Egypt rests upon that middle class buying into the future of Egypt."
(Image: Hosni Mubarak - Official Photo, Wikimedia Commons)