Kremlin Reaches for Internet Control

latest post from Berkman's IDBlog.

The Washington Post reported last weekend on efforts by the Russian government to take greater control over the Internet in that country. The article cites as example the purchase of the Russian segment of LiveJournal, a popular Russian blog hosting service. Expatriate Russian bloggers used LiveJournal heavily until they became outraged that the popular blog service had been sold by the US-based company to a Russian tycoon with close ties to the Kremlin. Wired and many other sources have covered the issue. The Post article also cites the use of the Internet during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution as a turning point in the Russian government’s decision to begin to restrict access (and take lessons in how to do so from the Chinese), create a cadre of loyal bloggers and buy up popular online news sites. The I&D project’s own case study

of the use of technology during the Orange revolution, to be published in December, found that news sites created a critical alternative media source for Ukrainians and that cell phones and SMS technology aided civil society groups as they organized protests against election fraud. However, it was not a primary cause of the revolution and technology could not replace real civil society leadership, although many “cyber utopians” would have us believe the opposite.

Given the growing use of the Internet by Russians (25% according to the Post), it seems the regime is set on squashing dissenting voices on the Internet. The Kremlin also seems willing to take over the alternative media sources available online as their popularity grows and begins to rival the mainstream media, especially television, which has long had government influence. Whether these steps and plans to create its own Cyrillic-based Internet with other CIS states are an over reaction, given that 75% of the country is not online, remains to be seen. However, it is clear that the Kremlin sees online journalism, civic activity and unregulated debate as enough of a threat to justify their gradual take over.


10.19.07 Wednesday Links

Royce Bannon and Knox via Meg Rorison's photostream

In Cambridge, Dani Rodrik writes about why the econ-blogosphere is here to stay.

In Washington, Peter Levine puts a new spin on Christopher Marlow's poem 'Passionate Shepard To His Love' to reflect what love means to our generation.

In Beijing, Jen asks why Paris Hilton is going to Rwanda.

In Cambridge, David Weinberger live blogs Oliver Goodenough's Berkman fascinating talk about how technology facilitaties a new understanding of cooperation in the world of economics and law.

Labels: ,

Internet & Democracy Case Study Series

My latest post to Berkman's IDBlog.

Anecdotally, we hear constantly that the Internet changes the nature of civic engagement. However, few studies have examined in detail how the Internet changes the dynamics of how we engage in our communities and our world. A key output of Berkman’s Internet & Democracy project is a series of narrative case studies that take a deep look at much noted political and social change around the world and try to understand the true impact of the Internet on these events.

The first set of I&D case studies will be released in December 2007. Among these will be an investigation into how the citizen journalism site OhmyNews has affected Korean politics. The case looks at how the site acts in the role of the press within a democracy: informing citizens of the actions of their government, representing citizen views, and providing a forum citizen-to-citizen deliberation of public issues. The study also discusses the possibility that citizen journalism sites can become centers for political mobilization, with the 2002 presidential election as a case in point.

Another study examines the role of digital/networked technologies in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. This case study seeks to understand the influence of Internet-based citizen journalists in an otherwise ’self-censored’ Ukrainian mainstream media environment. Further, this case investigates how grassroots pro-democracy activists used the the Internet and mobile phones to collect evidence of election fraud, mobilize pro-democracy trainings around the country and bring thousands of people out to protest fraudulent election results.

Stay tuned for more new about I&D’s upcoming projects.


A Weekend With Reuters or me?

Thanks to Jackfruity, I found Reuter's 48 Hours in Kampala. Clearly they found my own version (36 Hours in Kampala) lacking. Naturally, I think my weekend would be more fun; you get to bribe a fisherman at Munyonyo fish market. However, I give Reuters credit for boldy urging their readers to try 'molokony, a whole cow's hoof floating in oily soup.'


Wednesday Links 10.11.07

'Are Moments Reflective' via Meg Rorison's photostream

In Heine (China), Le Monde interviews Mikhail Titarenko about the Russian-Chinese border. Without planning, they have created a fascinating equilibrium about the exchange workers and capital across borders.

In Kampala, Rebekah interviews prominent blogger Dennis Matanda, who was forced to flee Uganda after supporting gay rights.

In Medford, Daniel Drezner writes about the challenges that rising powers face in global diplomacy.

In Freetown, Steve Radelet writes about the economic and political changes that are taking place under President Sirleaf in Liberia.

Labels: , ,

January 2008 in Sierra Leone

I've led 6 GYPA trips to Uganda and most recently to Cameroon. I won't be able to join this trip, but my super competent colleagues will do a marvelous job. If you are an undergraduate (or graduate) interested in learning about post-conflict development from first hand experience, you should consider this trip. I know of no better opportunity to connect with decision makers and stakeholders. Can you think of something better to do with winter break?

Upcoming student trip to Sierra Leone!
January 1-16, 2008

In January 2008, Global Youth Partnership for Africa will be sending 15 American youth to Sierra Leone for GYPA's second annual Youth Summit: "The Role of Youth in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone."

Sierra Leone today stands at a crossroads. Its brutal decade-long civil war ended just five years ago, and its effects are still visible in every corner of the country. However, Sierra Leone is also witnessing a growing tide of democratization, economic growth, and a great deal of overdue international attention and support. Now is a critical time to examine the many questions that remain regarding post-conflict reconstruction, particularly, the role youth can play in solving them.

GYPA's program will give participants a unique opportunity to explore first-hand the post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation processes at work in Sierra Leone. The purpose of the Summit is to engage and promote youth from the United States and Africa as leaders in the efforts to rebuild this war-torn country. Our goal is to expand international youth networks, encourage greater understanding about Africa, and inspire an ongoing dialogue and partnership between promising American and African youth. Participants will tour the country participating in discussions regarding conflict resolution, economic development, HIV/AIDS, transitional justice, democracy building, and gender issues, among others. Students with backgrounds or interests in any of the above fields are encouraged to apply!

Applications are due no later than November 1st. Please click on the links provided below to obtain the official program description and an application. Feel free to contact Lana Kovnot ( ) with any further questions.

Labels: , ,

Berkman's new Internet & Democracy blog

Two weeks ago, I mentioned the official launch of Berkman's Internet & Democracy Project, examining the relationship between the Internet and democratic norms. Today, I'm happy to announce the launch of IDblog, the official blog of the project. The blog will become one engine of building a community of people who are interested in helping to define the direction of this project. Please join us by sharing your thoughts in the IDblog comments section.

Our first post...

Myanmar's 'Dictator's Dilemma'

In 1993, Christopher Kedzie wrote that an increase in the relevance of digital/networked technologies will force repressive regimes to face a ‘Dictator’s Dilemma’, where they will have to choose between open communications (encouraging economic development) and closed communications (controlling ‘dangerous’ ideas). Based on last week’s events in Myanmar, where the Junta simply shut off the Internet in response to the worldwide transmission of words, pictures, and film of their repressive actions, it is easy to say that one of the worlds most repressive regimes has no qualms about shirking economic development in favor of complete control.

However, the events of the past few weeks have shown that a little online openness can go a long way. Activists used mobile phones and proxy servers to ensure that the world continued to get information about the country until the regime shut the entire network down (see Open Net Initiative’s detailed account of the tools used by online citizen journalists)



Wednesday Links 10.03.07

via Meg Rorison's photosteam

In Yangoon, the Junta violently responds to protests, and shuts down the Internet, severly limiting information flows.

In Cairo, Ogle Earth shows fascinating satellite images that document human rights abuses in Burma.

In Arusha, Jen Brea points me to Vusi Malasela's amazing performance of 'Thula Mama.'

In London, The Economist's Free Exchange blog wonders what makes someone qualify as an economist.

In Boston, Red Sox win the pennant. I was there!


Rising Voices Supports Online Media Activists

The miserable situation in Burma, where the shut down of the Internet was a major blow to pro-democracy advocates, has made me think recently about the importance of helping people around the world join the global online conversation. While people who live in the most repressive regimes are still having a difficult time, projects like Rising Voices (a part of Global Voices Online) are helping to support media activists around the world. Under the direction of my colleague David Sasaki, Rising Voices has drawn in applications globally and supported fascinating projects ranging from organizing workers in Columbia, to bringing female voices to the Dhaka (Bangladesh) blogosphere. I played a peripheral role in ensuring this project is helpful to media activists who are exploring this space. If you visit the Rising Voices wiki, you can brainstorm your own ideas by viewing past applications on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS to conservation to conflict blogging.

Labels: ,