Usually talk of Internet censorship pits an authoritarian state against its citizens. But reality is not always so simple, as evidenced at New America’s Annual Board Retreat and two-day conference launching the Open Technology Institute at Washington’s Newseum April 27-28.
Take Mexico, a country whose government doesn’t obstruct freedom of speech, but whose journalists are among the most endangered on earth. As Oscar Salazar explained, the censorship is of a more private nature: “We don’t have an authoritarian government, we have an authoritarian group of criminals” limiting freedom of speech.
Salazar is the CEO of CitiVox, an innovative social media platform for civic mobilization in that country. In the city of Monterrey alone, 50,000 Twitter followers brought together by CitiVox serve as a credible source of information regarding organized crime. It provides a means for civil society to leverage an open Internet and social media to reclaim public spaces and fight back against powerful drug cartels. From Russia, Alexey Sidorenko talked about his similar experience with RuNet Echo, his effort to leverage social media to track everything from forest fires to political rallies and other news not adequately covered by official media.