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Web 2.0 Summit 08: Rebecca MacKinnon (Global Voices), High O

Web 2.0 Summit 08: Rebecca MacKinnon (Global Voices), High O
Rebecca lived in Hong Kong and visited the Bay area only recently. She says that the view of the world from Sillicon Valley is different. One perspective is that we have democracies and a bunch on autocracies and dictatorships.

  • The view from other parts of the world is not so clear cut. The question is if we are moving somewhere to the middle.
  • China in particular is moving from the Mao model to the Murdock model. Does this equal democratization?
  • The Chinese government is advocating large media conglomerates.
  • With Ethan Zuckerman, Rebbecca help co found the website Global Voices a non profit website that help curate blogs from everywhere except North America and Western Europe.
  • The World wide web was supposed to bring more awareness but in reality American Bloggers were talking about other countries less than the mainstream media.
  • This was their way of finding out what other bloggers around the world were saying.
  • Besides the lack of attention, the other problem that these bloggers had were censorship. Blogspot was banned in Pakistan .
  • It was not enough just to encourage bloggers but to advocate their free speech.
  • China has the great firewall.
  • Many bloggers are thrown in jail. Some arrests are happening with the help of companies.
  • In one instance Yahoo helped arrest a blogger by providing the blogger account to the Chinese authorities. This has provoked an outcry from International human rights groups.
  • Google too helped China by not providing gmail in localized Chinese servers. However, they also have a censured version of their search engine.
  • However, Google said that it was less censoring than the local Chinese search engine.
  • A Chinese blog hosting service, partly funded by Google about Tianmen mothers displays a message asking to wait for approval when controversial words are used and never get approval.
  • The censorship in China happens mostly from companies that are afraid that they will loose their business license.
  • Companies are caught in the middle between governments and users.
  • This also happens in the US.
  • The Global network initiative.org where big players like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have signed on is based on standards that companies must set on freedom of expression and privacy.
  • It seeks to strike a balance for companies to keep markets but allow self expression.
  • Companies must seek creative solutions for such problems.
  • They must assess human rights before rolling out new products and advocate decision making before launches.
  • It also seeks for governance accountability and transparency to benchmark companies to live upto principals.
  • This will help investors and users make decisions on companies.
  • This brings up questions like:
  1. Are we over-relying on Web 2.0 giants?
  2. Do we need alternatives to gmail, Skype,etc?
  3. Can companies be benevolent dictators?
  4. Do we need more open-source, peer to peer alternatives?

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