The battle for free speech online

University of Minnesota Codework Collaborative

Sociologist and Internet-researcher Zeynep Tufekci responds to USAID’s recent debacle, the “Bay of tweets,” founding and funding a Twitter-like social media service in Cuba with surveillance-state intentions.

She notes how this technology and political surveillance fuels wider international efforts to strengthen efforts against activism online. She writes:

Instead of never really plugging in, like North Korea, or establishing complete control from the start, like China, the fence-builders throw up selective blocks to services like Twitter or YouTube, and filter certain objectionable content from the Web. But more important than these technical measures, which are easily evaded, are the political ones: The fence-builders portray social media as immoral, or worse: tools of the U.S. government. These countries are where the real battle for free speech online is being waged, where millions of activists and ordinary people often operate in a legal gray zone, with few protections when they step over the line.

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