Archive for March 29th, 2010

Here is an interresting article from SF gate´s tech section.

“As companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter push their technologies around the world, recent events show that they’re not just exporting the latest in online tools, but a basic tenet of the American way of life – freedom of speech.

That has led to Google defying the government of China over censorship issues, to Facebook and Twitter playing a role in fueling opposition protests in Iran and to a Nigerian court banning a civil rights group from using social media to debate amputations for convicted thieves.

“It highlights the fact that technology has political impacts beyond its business model,” said Eddan Katz, international affairs director for San Francisco’s Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s not just a form of communication, but a political opportunity in terms of freedom of expression.”

The United States has in the past used media such as movies and radio broadcasts to help spread a view of American life and values around the world.

Avoiding state control

But new technologies such as social networks, text messaging, YouTube, Wikipedia and search engines can now be delivered at lightening speed directly into the hands of ordinary people, providing an end-run around government-controlled media or corporations.

It’s ingrained into Silicon Valley culture, where “there’s still kind of a romanticized view of information technologies being by nature open and free and equalizing,” said Steven Weber, a professor of political science at UC Berkeley. “But to be perfectly honest, there’s an enormous amount of evidence to say that most of that is wishful thinking.”

Nevertheless, the U.S. government has recognized that those tools are to the age of digital technology what sledgehammers were when the Iron Curtain divided Europe.

Last year, the State Department asked San Francisco’s Twitter Inc. to delay scheduled maintenance to let people in Iran continue to use the microblogging network to coordinate protests after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the time, a State Department spokesman said the request was “about giving their voices a chance to be heard.”

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control relaxed sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba to allow the export of some software, freely available elsewhere, for Web browsing, blogging, e-mail, instant messaging, chat, social networking, and sharing photos and movies.

Those applications make it easier for citizens of those countries to “exercise their most basic human rights” and “communicate with each other and the outside world,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said in a statement.”

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