Digital Politics

From my O’Reilly blog:

I’ve been doing more and more work in politics since the ’04 election (communications consulting and web production). I got involved at first out of a sense of civic obligation–and because my wife told me to “stop ranting and go volunteer”. I expected to dread a lot of what I’d encounter, figuring politics is where the worst people you knew in high school went. You know, the manipulative weasels fascinated by power. But I’ve been surprised by how deeply interesting and satisfying the experience has been so far, and by how many people I’ve met who are still motivated by service.

The intersection of technology and politics is one of the most fascinating areas of all, so I think I’ll be writing about it some.

A couple of recent items I’ve come across highlight the subject’s currency. From Tim O’Reilly’s report of a Clay Shirky talk at ETech:

Social software is the experimental wing of political philsophy, a discipline that doesn’t realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we’re supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters. Because we have short-term goals and the cliff-face of annoyance comes in quickly when we let users talk to each other. But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right. I think having the language to talk about this is the right place to start.

And from a New York Times op-ed titled Exporting Censorship, by Xeni Jardin of boingboing:

One of our most laudable national goals is the export of free speech and free information, yet American companies are selling censorship. While some advocates of technology rights have proposed consumer boycotts and Congressional action to pressure these firms into responsible conduct, a good first step would be adding filtering technologies to the United States Munitions List, an index of products for which exporters have to file papers with the State Department. While this won’t end such sales, it will bring them to light and give the public and lawmakers a better basis on which to consider stronger steps.

If American companies are already obligated to disclose the sale of bombs and guns to repressive regimes, why not censorware?

Why not indeed. Increasingly wars will be fought via electrons over networks, not bullets over land.

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