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Are Micro Blogs a Right When It Comes to Freedom?


On Sunday, a U.S. based website, Boxun.com, called for protests in Shanghai and 11 other cities. Anonymous online activists called for a “Jasmin Revolution.” Almost instantly, Chinese authorities deployed police authorities to the sites of the planned protests. Chinese authorities also blocked word usages on twitter and other micro blog sites, temporary blocked mass short-messaging services (SMS), and deleted online discussion about topics.

This call for protest came in after Chinese President Jintao called for even tighter Internet controls to cure more social unrest. With the uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa – China’s leaders are indeed worried of a similar response. As the WSJ reports though, the vapid response shows that the same type of change is not as easy to accomplish when an authoritarian force has a well organized police fore and strong rule over both the Internet and SMS services.

With Twitter, and similar micro blog sites, and SMS being one of the best ways for people to communicate in mass and to organize against oppressive governments – one has to wonder if removing it from the people is a violation of a human right. These services, so tightly controlled by the government such as China, have been recently used as tools for freedom and as tools to change destinies and oppressive governments. In the past technology like this would not be considered such an important tool in the fight for freedom but could Egypt’s people have been as successful of the removal of a 30 year dictator without the help of these services? In countries where media is controlled by governments or corporate interests not favorable to the people how else would people communicate quickly to accomplish these goals.

This makes the argument for or against tools such as “kill-switches” in the U.S., as discussed in our issues article, much more complex issues. While the U.S. is not an oppressive regime and media is more open to freedom of information (and democracy is a helpful check as well), kill-switches and similar powers could be explored to manage protests and disagreement along party lines. It would be interesting to figure on how many people were influenced by micro blogging and SMS tools to protest in Wisconsin over the new planned weakening of the Unions. These tools are bound to become exceedingly important across the world as unhappy populaces fight back against oppressive regimes. While it would take some interesting queries (such as a mixture of information analytics and simple polling) to figure out the effects of organizations of protests in places such as Wisconsin and Egypt, this information would be important for policy setting in the U.S. As the U.S. is the exemplary leader of human rights, perhaps we should consider exploring how important and vital these services are for the fight for freedom and change. More importantly, national security is a goal that serves a populace of a nation. If freedom and change is what a populace wants – is national security a fair notion to use when blocking peaceful protests and revolutions of an unhappy populace? These, among other important questions, are notions that should be encompassed when setting U.S. policy on blockage of these micro blog and SMS services as the U.S> is a leading agent of change around the world.

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