· June, 2005

Stories about Weblog from June, 2005

Questions for Chinese bloggers

  30 June 2005

I have some questions for Chinese and China-based bloggers out there. (Please forgive my rusty Chinese… I'm much better at reading than writing, I'm afraid.) The extent of China's web filtering is often dismissed in the West as not such a big deal because people can use proxies to get...

Roundup: Africans on Live 8

  29 June 2005

Our friends at Technorati are working with the organizers of the Live 8 concerts to call attention to bloggers writing about the concerts and fundraising efforts. The tagline on their special site for the event reads, “We don't want your money, we want your voice!” Technorati is urging bloggers to...

Global Voices, Global Dinners

  27 June 2005

While it's been great fun to virtually meet people around the world through their blogs, it's always more fun to meet people in person. Especially when food is involved. So we're starting a series of “Global Voices Blogger Dinners”, to be held whenever those of us working on Global Voices...

Iranian Election Reaction

Here's a quick roundup of Iranian blog reaction to the fundamentalist victory in Friday's Iranian Presidential election: Hoder notes that Rafsanjani “was beaten by the outcome of his policies.” In the same post, he outlines some strategies that the reformist movement would do well to adopt if they want to...

What's going on in the Kenyan Blogosphere

  24 June 2005

Image via Haidhuru - The Kenyan budget was recently announced and the Kenyan blogosphere was on hand to provide commentary. Ms. K notes that though she's no budget expert, since “there was a whole House-full of Jack/Jill Arses who sat through the whole thing. I figure that by any estimation,...

Thursday World Blog Roundup

  23 June 2005

Africa: As Zimbabwe's government crackdown called “Operation Restore Order” evokes an international outcry, Sokwanele describes what it's like to “have stared into the face of evil.” The Zimbabwean Pundit calls for a boycott of South African goods to protest the fact that South African President Thabo Mbeki could be doing...

Blogosphere Reacts to Zapatista Communique

  23 June 2005

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, otherwise known as the EZLN or more commonly, the Zapatistas have recently released three somewhat enigmatic communiques (1, 2, 3) declaring a “General Red Alert” and heightened militarization of the movement. In addition, as the first communique [english] warns, “national and international civil societies...

Wednesday World Blog Roundup

  22 June 2005

Central Asia & the Caucuses: The Farsi blog Shared Pains (winner of the 2005 RSF Freedom Blog award) has a post in English on freedom of expression in Afghanistan (hat-tip to Afghan Lord). Registan points to an interview with the leader of Uzbekistan's opposition coalition. On the 40th day of...

How Iran filters the Internet

Microsoft is not the only U.S. company whose technology is assisting in blocking free speech, and China isn't the only country where it happens. The OpenNet Initiative and Berkman Center have just released a new report: Internet Filtering in Iran (PDF). The press release is here (also PDF..sorry). Here is...

Tuesday Global Blog Roundup

  21 June 2005

The Middle East Mahmood of Mahmood's Den announces that he's not only going to take Reporters Without Borders’ guidelines for a free internet and translate them into Arabic, he's going to fax them to his members of Parliament. Why not email? Well, sending email to Bahraini MPs doesn't seem to...

Declaration for a Free Internet

  20 June 2005

Reporters Without Borders and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) have just released a set of six recommendations which governments and corporations should follow in order to ensure a free internet. Full text of the Declaration : 1. Any law about the flow of information online must...

Iran: bloggers mull election results

With election authorities now ordering a partial recount and a run-off between Rafsanjani and the conservative Ahmadinejad scheduled for this coming Friday, bloggers continue to chew over the results and disagree about what to do next. From Teheran, Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder) writes of “the coming coup.” He says: “ All...

Petitions for jailed Iranian bloggers

The Committe to Protect Bloggers has an online petition calling for charges to be dropped against jailed Iranian blogger Omid Sheikhan. Click through to the links with more information on his case and offer your support if you agree with the cause. The CPB also has a petition campaign for...

Iran election: bloggers disappointed

NOTE: this post will be updated as more reaction comes in. The news is now out, Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad are the two top vote-getters and will contest in a run-off. The bloggers’ favorite, reformist Dr. Mostafa Moeen, the only candidate with his own blog, did not do well. After visiting...

Chinese Bloggers on Censorship, MSN, Etc.

  17 June 2005

At CNBlog, Isaac says: “Don't Use MSN Spaces, ” and creates a NoMSN Technorati tag for the boycott movement. Kaihong posts a screenshot on Flickr showing results similar to what I found: the blog's title is filtered, but he was able to post sensitive words in the body of the...

Ethical leadership

  17 June 2005

Rebecca MacKinnon writes impassionedly about Robert Scoble's defence of his company Microsoft's collusion with the Chinese government to filter politically sensitive words out of the Chinese version of MSN Spaces:

In justifying Microsoft's filtering of politically sensitive Chinese words on MSN spaces, Microsoft's uber-blogger Robert Scoble writes:
"I have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS forcing the Chinese into a position they don't believe in."
He continues:
"I've been to China (as an employee of Winnov about seven years ago). I met with Government officials there. I met with students. I met with professors. They explained their anti-free-speech stance to me and I understand it. I don't agree with it, and I will be happy to explain to anyone the benefits of giving your citizens the right to speak freely, but it's not my place to make their laws. It certainly is not my right to force their hand with business power."
I lived in China for nine years straight as a journalist, and if you add up other times I've lived there it comes to nearly 12. I don't know what students and professors Scoble met with, and what context he met them in. But to state that Chinese students and professors have an "anti-free-speech stance" is the biggest pile of horseshit about China I've come across in quite some time. And believe me, there are a great many such piles out there these days.
In my experience, most Chinese, like all other human beings I've ever met, would very much like to have freedom of speech. This goes for students, professors, workers, farmers, retirees, religious practitioners, and even many government officials. Many said so to me in on-the-record interviews. Many more told me so privately, in trusted confidence over beers (or something stronger) among friends. 
What they don't want is to lose their jobs and educational opportunities by pushing too hard at the restrictions their government has placed on their ability to speak. They work within the bounds of the possible, and since people in China can say a lot more now than they were allowed to say 20 years ago, most take the long-term view.
It's very true, most Chinese hate it when foreigners lecture them about how they should change. They hate being patronized. Many view the common American attitude of "we're here to save you and make you free" as condescending and hypocritical. They'd rather continue living under their extremely imperfect political situation in hopes that eventually it will change, and that this change will be accomplished by Chinese people in a Chinese way. Only then will they have ownership both of the change and of the result. Otherwise, the change will be considered foreign-imposed, and the Chinese violently detest foreign-imposed anything. Even ones who privately and quietly detest their government. I agree with Scoble: no outsiders, including Microsoft, can force China to change. But nobody's asking Microsoft to force China to do anything. The issue is whether Microsoft should be collaborating with the Chinese regime as it builds an increasingly sophisticated system of Internet censorship and control. (See this ONI report for lots of details on that system.)  Declining to collaborate with this system is not "forcing the Chinese into a position they don't believe in."  Declining to collaborate would be the only way to show that your stated belief in free speech is more than 空: empty words. If you believe that Chinese people deserve the same respect as Americans, then please put your money where your mouth is.
But let's not single out Microsoft for trashing on this point. As this Open Net Initiative report and this 2004 Amnesty International report will make abundantly clear, China's filtering, censorship, and surveillance systems wouldn't be what they are today without lots of help from a number of North American technology companies.  Businessman and author Ethan Gutmann wrote about Cisco's particular contribution in this 2002 article which later became a book chapter.
In the name of free enterprise, Americans so far have acquiesced in U.S. companies' collaboration in the building and reinforcement of the Great Chinese Firewall. The Global Internet Freedom Act is being revived again in congress; but while the Act would allocate money to develop censorship-busting technologies, it makes zero mention of the U.S. companies whose technologies and software services are helping to strengthen this very censorship.
Scoble says it's better to be doing business in China than not, implying that this engagement is better for China and its freedoms in the long run. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in economic engagement with China. But nobody said Microsoft shouldn't be doing business there. It's a question of how you do business and in what manner.
I can tell you one more thing about the Chinese. They hear what you say, then they watch how you do business. From there, it's pretty easy to figure out what your real values are.
I couldn't agree more with Rececca's analysis. Microsoft is showing the same kind of failure of ethical leadership here (albeit on a rather larger scale and with potentially more damaging consequences) as coffee bar chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee do in their refusal to match their Fairtrade posturing with a sales strategy designed to actually give people a straight choice between Fairtrade and "Unfairtrade" options at the counter. In both cases, the companies in question are effectively saying "of course, we're in favour of the ethical outcome (free speech and Fairtrade respectively), but it's not our job to recommend that outcome to our customers (the Chinese government and coffee drinkers respectively). So long as they can make out that they are passive in the un-ethical decision, these companies feel that they have "done enough". Well, that isn't enough for me—I want to deal with companies like Progreso, who have the commitment to an ethical vision to actually work with their customers and partners to seek to transform the status quo for the better. And Microsoft, through Kim Cameron's visionary work on an inclusive and open digital identity meta-network that respects each individual human being's freedom of self-representation, now has an opportunity to transform itself into one such company.

Screenshots of Censorship

  16 June 2005

Some Chinese bloggers have said that they were able to set up Chinese language MSN Spaces blogs using the “forbidden” political words. To clarify the situation I tried to set up my own freedom loving Chinese blog. I went into the MSN Spaces Chinese interface at: http://spaces.msn.com/?mkt=zh-cn, and tried to...

Thursday World Blog Roundup

  16 June 2005

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link and a short description of the post! The Middle East Hoder notes...

New Features on the Global Voices site

  16 June 2005

You may have noticed that we've made a few small changes to the Global Voices side – we hope they help you use the site more effectively (and, in one case, we hope that they'll encourage you to help us out as well.) There's now a search box on the...