freedom of expression

Copyright versus Campaigning

I caught a great presentation at the Internet Governance Forum called FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION vs. COPYRIGHT given by Dirk Voorhoof . The folk at my day job are good enough at spotting traditional censorship i.e. direct repression by governments, but one of the main things I wanted from the IGF was to sharpen up on how copyright impacts freedom of expression. Dirk's presentation hit the spot by showing how copyright is used as a tool to inhibit campaigning, by harassing groups like Greenpeace when they use something similar to a logo or brand to criticise a corporate through parody or imitation. This also seems to me a great way to get the message through to traditional campaigning NGO's that copyright is a key issue. oil logosoil logos The other great aspect of Dirk's presentation was the image he conjoured up of a titanic clash between two legal regimes, namely Intellectual Property Rights versus Human Rights. As he put it, we need to decide between "Copyright/trademark protection as a principle and freedom of expression as an exception or Freedom of expression as a principle and copyright/trademark protection as exceptions".

Surveillance of Social Software

The week after i got back from talking about the potential human rights threats of web2.0. a colleague at work circulated an article by Paul Marks from the New Scientist entitled 'Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites' which bears out a lot of that threat.
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It reveals software being developed with NSA support to datamine social networking sites by, perversely, harnessing the semantic web technologies of the W3C. Then email brought in a link to this article by David Freedman: "Why Privacy Won't Matter - Google, Yahoo and Microsoft desperately want to know every last thing about what you do, say and buy. Here's how they'll do it—and why we'll let them ". It does a nice job of highlighting the way that the drive for revenue from targeted advertising is eroding privacy and turning search engines in to Big Brothers. Whereas Google enables it's panopticon by seducing you in to using it's tools for all of your online life, Yahoo is researching social network analysis as a way to target ads at friends and colleagues. Although the general picture it paints is of inevitability, and it's very negative about the compliance of the younger generation (wrongly, in my opinion), it does highlight some developing techniques for prtecting privacy, and more importantly the possibility of a 'privacy backlash' against all this market-led surveillance. For me, the most chilling effect is the potential for self-censorship; as people become aware that their preferences and opinions are tracked they will become "afraid to engage in any behavior that others might find controversial."
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