My friend Jon Lebkowsky put together a really excellent group for our panel at SXSW. The panel focused on the challenges of blogging in countries where there’s no reasonable expectation of freedom of speech. On stage, we had Shava Nerad from Tor, Rob Faris from the Open Net Initiative, Shahed Amanullah of altmuslim.com, and Jasmina Tešanovi?, a Serbian journalist and blogger – a great range of speakers from experts on technical constraints on speech to people who’ve written and spoken from very difficult countries.
Rob Faris opens by suggesting that the cyberutopian fantasies of the Internet as an open, special place beyond national boundaries, is being dismissed as a fantasy. At least two dozen countries are filtering in the Internet and there are others ONI is watching closely – there’s a concentration of countries that filter the Internet in the Middle East and in East Asia. In many cases, filtering doesn’t just block sex or drug content, but prevents people from accessing political content. Filtering is messy and incomplete – Rob suggests we take a moment and have some sympathy for the poor censors, who are taking on an impossible task, as it’s very difficult to block any content without collateral damage. (His tongue is firmly in cheek.)