Governments all over the world are moving to censor various kinds of online and mobile content, and to expand their capacity to spy on people’s digital communications. While the problem is worst in authoritarian countries, democracies are by no means immune. Meanwhile companies and others trying to provide web and telecoms services are caught uncomfortably in the middle.
The struggle in Chinese cyberspace between those who want freedom and those who want control, and how businesses try to survive while serving both groups, can teach us a lot about a problem the whole world is grappling with. This struggle is also producing some creative new ideas for how people around the world can collaborate to protect our fundamental right to freedom of speech.
Rebecca MacKinnon is co-founder of Global Voices, a global bloggers’ network. A veteran journalist, blogger, and China expert, she is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center where she teaches online journalism and conducts research on the Chinese Internet, free expression and corporate responsibility. She also serves as Public Lead for Creative Commons Hong Kong. Before moving to Hong Kong MacKinnon was a Research Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, MacKinnon worked for CNN in Northeast Asia for over a decade, serving as CNN’s Beijing Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 1998-2001 and as CNN’s Tokyo Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 2001-03. Her blog is RConversation.com.
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