human rights

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From blocking to botnet

Censorship isn't the only problem with China's new Internet blocking software

Robot hands on computer keyboard

There's chilling Internet news out of China. And as bad as it seems at first glance for human rights and privacy advocates, there could be something more disturbing in the wings.

The Chinese government has announced that, starting in July, it will require all computers sold in China to come with Internet blocking software. The goal, authorities say, is to protect children from pornography.

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Every Human Has Rights makes human rights personal

The Elders harness online campaign tools for social change

For the past two months, I've been part of the digital strategy team for The Elders, an extraordinary NGO that was launched last year by Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. The vision is to convene a council of elders for the global village; the founding elders include Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan.

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Messages to Burma: with the Internet censored, radio rears its head

The brutal crackdown in Burma is following a familiar pattern, including the severing of lines of communication with the outside world – particularly two very modern technologies: mobile phones and the Internet.

Into that information vacuum steps a technology whose time I'd honestly thought may have come and gone: shortwave radio.

Radio Netherlands (a station I listened to religiously when I was a teenage shortwave radio geek) is going far beyond the boundaries you usually associate with a state-owned broadcaster, and using their shortwave service to breach the Burmese border with messages of support from the outside world:

Our frequencies, transmitted from Irkutsk in Siberia, Madagascar and other sites, have not been jammed and for three hours a day we offer an alternative to the military junta's propaganda. Internet may be down but via Short Wave we can punch a hole in the information stranglehold.
Pro-democracy dissidents are having their say and we've broadcast the comments of world leaders telling the military junta to stop its attacks.

You can have your say too

Let us know what you think of the push for democracy as people in Myanmar/Burma confront the military dictators.

We'll publish your comments here on our Internet page. Please include your phone number too so we can call you back to record your comments as we prepare a special 'Shout via Short Wave' programme.

It warms my heart to see this happening... partly because of the impact of this initiative and the hope it will bring to a country that needs it so badly, and partly because of what it says about technology and communication.

The Internet is famed for its ability to route around obstacles, accidental or deliberate. But that capacity may be just as much an attribute of the human values of compassion and solidarity. And it's good to remember that the expression "information wants to be free," which we usually think of purely in the context of the Internet, applies much more broadly. 

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