Amnesty International: “Is technology really good for human rights?”

Above is the panel for tonight: L-R that’s Guardian Blogs Editor Kevin Anderson; Annabelle Sreberny of SOAS; Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC and Susan Pointer of Google (link to a video).

SP: “We at Google believe that open is better than closed.” But what about private info, as with people seeing who you email when Google Buzz was introduced?

The fifth member of the panel, author Andrew Keen, joins us by iPhone. Keen thinks that technology is used even more effectively by oppressive regimes like Iran or China than it is by protesters. That’s true – they can limit Internet access very easily – see the Great Firewall of China.

AS: Lived in Iran around the 1979 revolution. Has a PowerPoint presentation for us – how lecture theatre!

AS tells us that anti-government movements in Iran have always communicated – the Internet just updates their methods, and gives other people greater access. Unfortunately, the government gets greater access too.

The limitations on freedom in public spaces in Iran means that the vast number of Iranians under 30 are stuck at home, and so they turn to the Internet. The Iranian diaspora, especially those who have left since 1979, feel connected to the country again.

RC-J is enthralled by AS’s presentation and takes a few photos of his own.

AS: In a place like Iran, politics and technology are intertwined.

Unfortunately, as the above pic shows, governments have the power to deny access.

KA: Obama campaign was the “perfect marriage” of internet and traditional old-school campaigning methods.

Both The Guardian and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard used crowdsourcing to identify protestors and the dead.

KA: Security will be increasing concern.

SP not looking thrilled when KA mentions Google in China.

RC-J to SP: You are a giant advertising machine!

SP takes it quite well: “We support an open user environment with no user tie-in.”

SP on Google in China: It is better to have a .cn site that the Chinese can always access than a .com site that was blocked. SP says not a commercial thing, but the .cn site means complying with Chinese government. Google are not that comfortable with censorship.

Above is a pic of the twitterfeed of #aitech projected onto the wall in front of us.

KA: Ben Hammersley said that the Internet is so new, we don’t have social mores for it yet. Being polite is probably a good idea, though.

Back to Google – Buzz, in particular… SP wanted to work for Google because it’s a company that is open about its communications. On Buzz, they got it wrong, then blogged their way through it as they changed the privacy controls. “Took hours if not days.”

AS makes a good point about user-generated content and how people essentially send content to “big media” but don’t get paid for it. RC-J sees UCG as being defined as something produced by those who don’t get paid. Oh dear.

Great discussion and the twitterfall projection was interesting – even quite amusing at times – and let people who couldn’t be present be part of the discussion. RC-J was quite a fun host too.

Conclusions, then? Yes and no. But mostly yes.

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I like the comma in American headlines, I think England needs it.

One thought on “Amnesty International: “Is technology really good for human rights?”

  1. A shift in our society has occurred the past few years. We have gone from initially fearing the security of the internet to anything/everything goes, your nobody unless everything about you is transparent. There is little to no digital hygiene that is of any concern with many of the nets younger users. This is all they have known since High School, so it must be safe, secure, and no problem. I don’t know where this all nets out for privacy and society. Caution is still necessary, storage is unlimited and cheap and everything is connected.


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