Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bearing Witness

There was more dramatic testimony from pro-democracy activists concerned with China who were testifying before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations who described the plight of imprisoned cyber-dissidents, the culture of prohibition around Internet use that extends to cafeteria signs, and how Cisco has assisted Chinese law enforcement in ways contrary to post-Tiananmen export constraints passed by Congress.

Apparently the search engine in China not only limits results from certain keyword searches, such as "human rights" or "democracy," but also generate deceptive or misdirecting results. For example, those entering "Uygur" into the search box (a Muslim Turkic ethnic group in China that once maintained control over its own autonomous region) are misdirected to web pages about converting from Islam.

What is impressed me most about the dissidents' presentations was how they were using other visual and auditory technologies to get their message out. For example, one of the men on the panel showed a Powerpoint slide show that cannibalized material from Cisco PowerPoints, and the female speaker who followed talked about how her group's use of Podcasts created a "virtual town square" for civic discursive exchange.

Toward the end of the day, representative Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) introduced the Global Online Freedom Act of 2006.

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