Tag Archives: censorship

Episode 7: Why don’t you go ahead and just write me a letter

Note: This is a repost of Episode 7 do to an issue with our podcast host.

We kick off talking about the #fuckyouwashington hash tag that Jeff Jarvis started.

Does the profanity bother us? No. Does Twitter censoring the hashtag  bother us? Yes.

We also delve deeper into Lion after using it for a week. We discuss AirDrop, the feature seemingly few are talking about. We go deeper into Lion’s new security features.

We also discuss how Patrick may get a new computer setup, and we spend a long time debating Macbook Airs vs. Macbook Pros.

And we had several other topics that we wanted to touch one, but this podcast aims to dig deep into topics. So that’s all we got to.

We’d also like to thank Alan Smodic for joining us during our Google+ Hangout before the show. Each week before the show we have a public Google+ Hangout where we go over what we’ll talk about on the show and try to get some early thoughts out. We’ll tweet out the link and share it on our Google+ accounts.

Listen to this week’s podcast:

 

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Show notes:

As China lies about news of train crash, Internet and blogs explode with torrents of truth

China’s versions of Twitter, called weibos, were able to get much of the truth about the train crash there that killed 36 people and injured many more out and past government censors.

Many people in China, despite censored and a state-controlled media, were not fooled by the Chinese governments official accounts that the weather and some other gobbledygook caused the two trains to collide. What makes services like Twitter so interesting for democracy and the freedom of information is that new messages come in so fast that they are really hard to censor:

“I call it the microblogging revolution,” Zhan Jiang, a professor of international journalism and communications at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said in an interview on Thursday. “In the last year, microbloggers, especially Sina and Tencent, have played more and more a major role in coverage, especially breaking news.”

Just look at these messages that got by government censors:

Then the reaction began to pour in. “Such a major accident, how could it be attributed to weather and technical reasons?” blogged Cai Qi, a senior Zhejiang Province official. “Who should take the responsibility? The railway department should think hard in this time of pain and learn a good lesson from this.”

From a Hubei Province blogger: “I just watched the news on the train crash in Wenzhou, but I feel like I still don’t even know what happened. Nothing is reliable anymore. I feel like I can’t even believe the weather forecast. Is there anything that we can still trust?”

Why censorship on Facebook matters

If Facebook is the new town hall, its censorship is really troubling:

Facebook is increasingly the space within which people receive their information, including civic information. Shared newspaper links, blog posts, and conversations in the comments may not intuitively accrue as much respect as the Federalist Papers, but they are at least as important in the public discourse as the proverbial crier on the common was generations ago.

But where once there was a town common, there is now a walled garden, and the architecture of this enclosure threatens to throttle the pamphleteer before he so much as primes his printing press.

Assume the best of intentions on the part of Facebook for a moment. Look at what still happened.

A site advocating citizen activism vanishes from the face of Facebook. Then, alternate routes – the redirects – are shut down. After crushing the conversation, Facebook then successfully silenced the metaconversation – that is, posts like mine, commenting on the controversy, which merely linked to the content. Users had to resort to guerilla tactics – coded, deceptive transformations of the domain name – in order to spread the word slowly amongst the community.

Think about that for a moment. Think about the incredible, suffocating centralized power the Facebook filter represents to controversial opinions. Had this been in a traditionally public forum, banning truly offensive or abusive material would have had to survive the strict scrutiny of a skeptical judge. But on Facebook – merely a mediated public – presumably a few reports were enough to simply disappear (used as verb; gulag connotations intended) an entire movement.