Net Censorship: The UN is watching, but who’s watching the UN?

Diplomats and various internet influentials talked about internet censorship, diversity and access at a UN-sponsored gathering in Athens this week.

Do you care? Do your usual media providers keep you up-to-date on who’s controlling the internet and what they’d like to do with it?

Given the emerging ubiquity and necessity of digital communications, I continue to marvel at the “other world” nature of high-level discussions about how the internet is operated.

Meanwhile, in Athens, on internet censorship …

Reporters Without Border: Internet censorship is spreading
China: Really? We’re not doing it

From AP via MSNBC: Google, others defend China operations
Censorship is a key focus at this week’s inaugural Internet Governance Forum, which ends Thursday. Other main issues are related to security of online networks and diversity of the Internet as Web growth is predicted to shift to China, India and developing countries.

Julien Pain of the group Reporters Without Borders said Web censors were gaining strength in many of those growth countries and that their main target was not dissidents but keeping information from the general population.

“Internet censorship is really spreading around the world,” he said. “Ten years ago, the Internet was not important for an African dictator. … Now China is a model for these countries and their model is spreading around the world.”

Richard Sambrook was there and described “a collision between business interests, principles of human rights and freedom of expression … What is better – compromised co-operation that makes some progress or refusal to compromise that makes no progress? We may be guilty of adopting too much of a Northern and Western view sometimes.”
Athens sidenotes:

1. Our We Media conference infuenced the IGF meeting in Athens. Hurray. The Athens forum was headed by Nitin Desai, who attended and spoke at the We Media London forum earlier this year. We might also note BBC news presenter Nik Gowing, who moderated a portion of the London conference, played a similar role in Athens. Kieren McCarthyin the UK writes that the We Media London experience inspired Mr. Desai to incorporate a “chief blogger” into the UN conference.

2. On the other hand, maybe we should keep quiet about who and how we inspire people, or don’t – since one might just as easily note missed opportunities. Here’s Joi Ito writing about his Athens experience:

I seem to be doing this more and more, but I’m sitting in my hotel room watching the webcast and chatting in the chatroom for the IGF meeting. Until they make it easier for people to use their computers on site, I’m going to continue doing this.

Update: Sorry comments are not showing up here. We’re looking into it.

Nov. 21, 2006 Update: Comments fixed.

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