November 11, 2009

Link of the Random Interval of Time (LotRIoT), 11-11-2009: Threatened Voices

Threatened Voices: Tracking suppression of online free speech

This site describes itself as “A collaborative mapping project to build a database of bloggers who have been threatened, arrested or killed for speaking out online and to draw attention to the campaigns to free them.” The front page is an interactive world map of bloggers facing threats — or those for whom it’s already too late. The default view is by country (the USA has 2), but you can also filter by status, including “under arrest,” “released,” “threatened,” “deceased” and “unknown.” The map has its glitches. When I selected “Unknown,” Tanzanian blogger Malecela Peter Lusinde showed up in Texas.

The American bloggers are Elliott Madison, charged with hindering prosecution for using Twitter to help G20 protestors avoid police, and Elisha Strom, apparently arrested for publishing the address of a police officer.

When you view the page for a specific blogger, in addition to basic info and links to the blogger’s site and any help-the-blogger campaign site, you’ll see a related newsfeed from “trusted websites.” Like the map, this feed is a little flaky. Stories supposedly related to Elliott Madison show up because they mention Madison Square Garden, president James Madison, or musician Liam Madison.

The profiled bloggers aren’t always people I admire or agree with, but that’s the point of free speech: it’s for all sorts of speech, for all sorts of people. Agreeable speech doesn’t need protection.

In some cases, I might agree that the blogging/tweeting in question broke a just law; but those are the fringe cases the forces of censorship love to present as typical, and it’s easy enough to ignore them. Overall, I salute the work and goals of Threatened Voices.


September 14, 2009

Link of the Random Interval of Time (LotRIoT): TechDirt

I read the TechDirt blog ( for the Intellectual Property (IP) and media stories, and that’s a big part of the content. TechDirt is run by Michael Masnick, who writes most if not all of the posts.

Masnick and I don’t seem to be near one another on the political spectrum; he comes across as a libertarian (and maybe a Libertarian, but I don’t know), whereas I’m more of a commie-pinko-socialist type. Nevertheless, we often arrive at similar positions on IP issues by different routes. And I agree with a few of the basic points he makes, in different ways, over and over: “intellectual property” is a metaphor, and a confusing one; the PR from publishing groups (whether print, music, software or film) exaggerates the rights of content creators and the problem of piracy, and minimizes the rights of the public — including the rights of content creators, when it comes to making use of existing content; and if you’re a scribe, you try to figure out how to make money from this new-fangled “printing press” gadget (or switch jobs), rather than asking for government restrictions on its use to protect your profession.

Agree with the positions or not, TechDirt consistently offers a thoughtful perspective on intellectual property issues.

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