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[liberationtech] On the politics of the circumvention debate
katrin at mobileactive.org
Tue Sep 21 07:56:24 PDT 2010
What do you see as the major areas of discussion and policy focus (and
funding) beyond circumvention? Some are touched upon in Ethan's piece
that you reference below, but I am curious but your priority list
On Sep 17, 2010, at 4:54 PM, Evgeny Morozov wrote:
> At the risk of steering this debate away from Haystack, I'd like to
> reflect on something that Mehdi ementioned in one of his recent
> emails to the list - namely his suggestion that my questioning of
> the US government's involvement with Haystack may somehow shift
> policy debate around circumvention tools in Washington and might
> thus damage the prospects of obtaining more government funding for
> such tools.
> I think Mehdi's are valid concerns but I don't think that a shift in
> the policy debate around circumvention is necessarily a bad thing.
> Those who have not been following the field very closely may benefit
> from knowing that there are a lot of people - me included - who have
> been asking for precisely this kind of policy debate to occur for a
> very long time. (For a good summary of recent arguments on this
> issue see Ethan Zuckerman's essay Beyond Circumvention.)
> Another person who has consistently spoken out about the need to go
> beyond circumvention is Rebecca MacKinnon and I hope she can chime
> in here as well. I also know that there are plenty of people who
> take the exact opposite side in this debate. I wish I could say that
> this is an issue on which there is consensus within the community -
> but I can't.
> I certainly understand Mehdi's interest in ensuring that the web-
> sites that he runs - as well as many other Internet resources - are
> accessible to users in Iran. But I don't think that this alone
> justifies not taking a broader view of the field and trying to
> figure out whether there has been too much focus - including on the
> funding front - on supporting circumvention tools at the expense of
> not funding/discussing/designing appropriate responses to other,
> more "liquid" types of Internet control like the intimidation of
> bloggers or DDoS attacks.
> I do understand the concerns of Iranian and Chinese Internet users
> over their firewalls - but we should also remember that there are
> plenty of users in a country like Russia, who are still suffering
> from Internet control - just of a different kind (see the recent
> Microsoft story in NYT as an example). Just because so much of
> Washington's focus is on circumvention, Russians do not really get
> as much help in their own struggles. Thus, as far as I am concerned,
> if the Haystack controversy could help to finally start that debate
> in Washington, this would be great news. There is no way to get it
> right without having a proper debate on these issues as well as
> understanding the regional differences in how governments choose to
> exercise control over the Internet.
> So I'd like to dispute Mehdi's claim that somehow I am not aware of
> the potential consequences of my criticism; I am. In almost every
> post that I published about Haystack, I made it pretty clear that
> I'm not interested in their code as much as I'm interested in the
> broader environment in which this unfortunate project got started/
> survived for so long. And while I wouldn't want to see major funding
> cuts to important and effective circumvention tools, I do think that
> we need a much better/holistic understanding of the objectives/
> priorities facing the field.
> I'm clearly in favor of continuing this debate - and certainly in
> favor of extending it to Washington, where the lobbyists working for
> organizations behind some of these tools - especially the folks from
> the Global Internet Freedom Consortium - have done their best to
> suppress it.
> P.S. full disclosure: I sit on the sub-board of the Information
> Program at the Open Society Institute and we have funded work in the
> circumvention space in the past.
> liberationtech mailing list
> liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
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katrin at mobileactive.org
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