A transition to meaningful democracy in Egypt?

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is hosting a Congressional Briefing to discuss the Transition to Meaningful Democracy in Egypt. The briefing will be held on……

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 (11:00 AM to 12:15 PM), Room 2203, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC. Doors will open at 10:30 AM, and the program will start promptly at 11:00 AM.

The briefing will highlight what lies ahead for Egypt as the country moves towards establishing a democratic political system. Panelists will discuss the key factors affecting a successful transition – including constitutional reforms, individual freedoms, electoral reforms, freedom of the press, and the role of the youth in this pivotal time in Egypt’s history.

Scheduled speakers include:

  • Professor Adel Iskandar Media and Communications Lecturer, Georgetown University
  • Tamer N. Mahmoud Associate, White & Case, LLP
  • Professor Sahar Aziz – Legal Fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law Center
  • Khaled Beydoun – Founding Member, Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  • Abed Ayoub – Legal Director, ADC, Moderator.

This briefing is open to the public and Congressional staffers alike. To RSVP, please send an email to rsvp@adc.org. For more information about the briefing please contact Abed Ayoub at aayoub@adc.org, or at 202-244-2990.

Have Egypt’s democrats ‘lost strategic initiative’?

The constitutional amendments unveiled by Egypt’s ruling military council will do little to ease growing concerns that it is aiming to preserve the status quo rather than engineer a democratic transition.

“There is legitimate fear for the revolution stemming from those seeking to ambush it and those who have an interest in its failure,” says Amr Hamzawy (right), a member of the Council of the Wise.

He fears that a genuine transition process will be undermined by “those gathered around the previous president in Sharm el-Sheikh or those embroiled in the authoritarian, corrupt system which he established for the past decades”.

An eight-man constitutional panel appointed by the military has proposed several constitutional amendments, including term limits of two four-year presidential terms, judicial supervision of elections, fewer restrictions on the eligibility of presidential candidates, and an end to civilian trials in military courts.

“With all due respect, it’s not enough,” says Gamal Eid (left), director of the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. “We’re not happy with the changes they made, and we’re not happy with the way they chose the committee members to start with.”

The NDP retains too much influence in election administration, while any polls should be subject to independent and foreign monitoring.

He had also hoped that the second article of the constitution “could have been changed to make Islamic law one of many principles for legislation and not the principal one.”

The military is proposing elections within six months, but pro-democracy figures complain that a tight time-frame will benefit the former ruling National Democratic Party and the highly-organized Muslim Brotherhood

“I have a lot of reservations about Egypt’s interim period: moving from a dictatorial to a free, independent nation,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the National Association for Change. He insists that emerging political parties need time to organize and to connect with the electorate.

“If you do elections in six months, the only people who will benefit are the Muslim Brotherhood and the old government party, which is trying to reincarnate itself and still has its tentacles out.”

He has criticized the military for managing the transition in an opaque and exclusive manner:

It has not courted any faction of Egyptian society, other than to meet selectively with a few young people whose names have gained notice. It has not outlined a plan or timeline for how the transition will lead to a democratic state. We must give new political parties time to organise themselves and engage with society. A rushed transition will only benefit existing parties and groups, leaving the silent majority still absent from the political scene, and leading to non-representative, skewed elections.

The newly-established Wasat Party, a moderate Islamist groups which split from the Brotherhood, has called for at least 12 months of interim government before elections.

“The only two powers currently capable of competing in the election are the Muslim Brotherhood and businessmen,” says Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, a representative of the National Association for Change. A projected June poll “will harm new parties which the youth of the revolution intend to set up,” he believes.

But the military appears to be fixed on the timetable, judging from a recent meeting with several young leaders of the revolution.

“The generals stopped taking notes when we started talking about delaying elections for one year,” one of the youth activists said.

According to a recent assessment by independent analysts, in the event of premature elections come prematurely, “the disparate democratic opposition will probably be unable to establish the organization and capacity to compete on a level playing field.”

Some observers suspect that the process may be designed to squeeze the country’s democratic center.

The amendments were announced as a senior UN delegation visited Egypt to assess how the international community can assist with the transition, while taking pains to stress the local ownership of the process

“This is – and must be – an Egyptian process,” said Lynn Pascoe, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

Egypt needs “institutional reform that establishes the rule of law and guarantees balance and mutual oversight among the legislative, executive and judicial authorities,” writes Hamzawy, research director at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center.

“A parliamentary republic that guarantees a full political life and limits the encroachment of the presidency and the executive authority on individual rights offers the best approach,” he contends.

“In addition, an institution for national dialogue — representing all national forces, labor and professional syndicates, youth movements and civil society — should be formed to manage the transition alongside the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.”

The inchoate democratic opposition that forced Mubarak from office is passing through “a foggy moment which had stripped it of the strategic initiative,” says Hamzawy.

“I fear it will lead to a state of confusion in action with very serious consequences.”

Time to support Libya’s democratic transition, says Clinton

Democracy and human rights advocates are calling for a NATO-supported no-flight zone over Libya and international support to the country’s nascent provisional government.

“The people of Libya have made themselves clear: it is time for Qadhafi to go – now, without further violence or delay,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“We all need to work together on further steps to hold the Qadhafi government accountable, provide humanitarian assistance to those in need and support the Libyan people as they pursue a transition to democracy,” she told the UN Human Rights Council today.

The US and the European Union are leading international efforts to pressure Muammar Qadhafi’s regime.

“The lesson of history is that when it comes to these kinds of crises there tends to be international disunity,” said a senior US administration official. “Here we have managed to have the most united front imaginable. But it is important that we move to the next stage.”

The UN Security Council took the unprecedented step of invoking the “responsibility to protect” doctrine at the weekend when it voted to impose an arms embargo on Libya and to apply targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against the regime’s elite. It also referred Libya to the International Criminal Court for investigation and potential prosecution for crimes against humanity.

The UN’s reference to the responsibility to protect “is the first time it has been explicitly invoked by the Security Council,” say Canadian MP Irwin Cotler and human rights lawyer Jared Genser. But the UN needs to do more, they write:

The Security Council should adopt a new resolution to immediately extend recognition to the nascent provisional government of the country, authorize a NATO-supported no-flight zone over Libya to preclude any bombing of civilians, and permit all U.N. members to provide direct support to the provisional government.

One of Qadhafi’s sons hinted that the regime was willing to negotiate with the opposition, and warned that the unrest would lead to civil war and Libya’s disintegration. “The unrest will break up the country just as in Afghanistan,” said Saif al-Islam Qadhafi.

But another brother, Saadi, seems to see the writing on the wall.

The unrest sweeping the Arab world is “an earthquake,” he told ABC News.

“It’s a fever,” he said. “It’s going to spread everywhere. No one can – will stop it.”

Jared Genser is a former Regan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Belarusian candidate details torture in KGB jail

A former opposition candidate in the Belarusian presidential election today revealed that he was subjected to torture during his two months’ detention in a KGB jail.

Ales Mikhalevich (left) was one of several opposition candidates and hundreds of democracy activists arrested for disputing the results of December’s presidential election. Incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory following a poll which international election monitors declared deeply flawed.

In a detailed statement released today, Mikhalevich described the KGB’s brutal methods which are “aimed at breaking the oppositional leaders”:

Guards….wearing black masks without identification marks – dragged me out of the cell, handcuffed me and lifted my arms up by handcuffs so as to lower me face down to the concrete floor. They dragged me down a spiral staircase to a basement room. After twisting my arms behind my back as far upwards as they would go, until my joints started cracking, they told me I needed to do everything requested of me. They kept my arms in this position for a long time and pushed them higher and higher until I said I would comply with all requests.

Several times a day, prisoners were subjected to a full body search while forced to stand naked in a painful posture in freezing temperatures:

Systematically, 5-6 times a day, we were taken out “to be searched” – for a body search. During this, we were made to stand naked in a “stretch vice”: our legs were tripped up, forcing them to be stretched almost to a full split. When our legs were tackled, I felt the ligaments breaking, it was difficult to walk after this procedure.

“After my joints crunched I did all they wanted,” he said at a news conference today.

He was forced to sign an agreement that he had collaborated with the KGB in order to secure his release, but insisted that he never would be an agent for the security services.

Mikhalevich said that he realized that he might be arrested again after breaking his agreement not to reveal details of his mistreatment, but he felt morally obliged to expose the regime’s methods.

“I will do everything I can to shut down the concentration camp in the center of Minsk,” he said. He has made an official complaint to the prosecutor-general and plans to make a similar appeal to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture.

The regime’s crackdown prompted calls for the EU and US to adopt coordinated stategies to counter the authoritarian turn.

National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman recently joined dozens of eminent politicians, dissidents, and artists in a declaration of solidarity with imprisoned Belarusian democrats on RFE/RL’s Radio Svaboda.

Dissent, democracy and digital media

Check out the latest Digital Media Round-Up from the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy for essential news, analysis and events.

Upcoming Events – Washington DC
Covering Egypt: The Media and the Revolution
Monday, February 28, 2011 6:30-8:30PM
National Press Club
Featuring: Riz Khan, Mona Eltahawy, Jeffrey Ghannam, and Natasha Tynes
RSVP: Grace Burton at gburton@icfj.org or 202.349.7606

Summary: In Egypt, all the new tools in the digital media revolution came into play. From  Al Jazeera’s deep coverage to citizen journalists posting photos on Facebook, the world received a vivid picture of what was happening on the ground despite the government attempt to shut down the Internet. Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan will discuss how his organization stayed on top of the breaking news. His remarks will be followed by a panel discussion with distinguished experts on the media scene in Egypt.

Democracy, Dissent, and Digital Media in the Arab World
Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 8:30-11:00AM
Rayburn Building, Room B-369
Co-Sponsors: The Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press and The Center for International Media Assistance
Featuring: Mona Eltahawy, Abderrahim Foukara, Amira Maaty, and Michael Nelson
RSVP: CIMA@ned.org
Summary: The latest uprisings in the Arab region have revived the debate about the power of digital media. Mass demonstrations across the region have caused the downfall of two governments and led to major changes in others. From Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, digital media have played a vital role in mobilizing protesters and transmitting information in real time around the globe. Yet some argue that the influence of these tools has been greatly exaggerated. A panel of experts and activists will examine the strengths and vulnerabilities of digital media in supporting protests across the Arab world.

Upcoming Events – Around the US

Transmedia Mobilization
Tuesday, March 1, 12:30PM, Berkman Center, Featuring: Dr. Sasha Costanza-Chock
RSVP: ashar@cyber.law.harvard.edu
Webcast: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/webcast
More info: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/luncheon/2011/03/costanzachock

Why Technology Has Not Revolutionized Politics, but How It Can Give a Little Help to Our Friends
Thursday, March 3, 2011, 4:30-6:00PM
Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law – Stanford University
Featuring: Archon Fung
RSVP:

In the News

Dissent and Digital Media in the Middle East

Facebook and Twitter are Changing the Middle East
In an interview with WSJ’s Alan Murray, social media expert Clay Shirky discusses the effect of Facebook, Twitter and other social media in the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and what it could mean for the Middle East at large. (Wall Street Journal, 2/18)

Cellphones Become the World’s Eyes and Ears on Protest
For some of the protesters facing Bahrain’s heavily armed security forces in and around Pearl Square in Manama, the most powerful weapon against shotguns and tear gas has been the tiny camera inside their cellphones. (New  York Times, 2/18)

In the Middle East, This Is Not a Facebook Revolution
Hosni Mubarak’s departure from power earlier this month after three decades of rule showed that the power of social media sites and mobile phone technology proved a far bigger threat to the former Egyptian president. (Washington Post, 2/20)

Egyptians Were Unplugged, and Uncowed
FOR a segment of the young people of Egypt, the date to remember is not when Egyptians first took to the streets to shake off the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Rather, it is three days later — Jan. 28, 2011 — the day the Internet died, or more precisely, was put to sleep by the Mubarak government. (New York Times, 2/20)

Middle East Uprising: Facebook’s Secret Role in Egypt
Emails obtained by The Daily Beast show that Facebook executives took unusual steps to protect the identity of protest leaders during the Egypt uprising. Mike Giglio on how the social media giant scrambled to keep pace with Egypt’s revolution. (The Daily Beast, 2/24)
The Limits of the ‘Twitter Revolution’
The new digital technologies are powerful tools in moments of crisis, but they cannot substitute for sustained citizen activism. (Guardian, 2/24)
The Truth About Twitter, Facebook and the Uprisings in the Arab World
Recent events in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt have been called ‘Twitter revolutions’ – but can social networking overthrow a government? The Guardian reports from the Middle East on how activists are really using the web. (Guardian, 2/25)

Libya’s Internet Blackout

Libya Blocks Access to Facebook, Al Jazeera, Others
During the last few days, after seeing the power of the people succeed in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyan Internet activists created groups on Facebook to call for political and economic reforms in Libya. Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has now cut access to the social network (and other websites). (ZD Net, 2/18)

Libyan Disconnect
Latest updates on Libya’s Internet blackout. (Renesys Blog, 2/18)
Middle East Internet Scoreboard
The success of the Tunisian and Egyptian protest movements inspired demonstrations throughout the Middle East last week, including large-scale social media coordinated protests in Libya, Iran, Bahrain, Algeria, Jordan and Yemen. In several of countries, governments responded to the calls for reform with arrests and violent suppression of public demonstrations. Increasingly, several Middle Eastern governments also may be disrupting phone and Internet communication to contain the spread of unrest. (Arbor Networks, 2/20)

Desperate Gadhafi Bombs Protesters, Blocks Internet
Hosni Mubarak’s goons used rocks, sticks, camels and knives against the Egyptian demonstrators who ultimately overthrew him. In neighboring Libya, Moammar Gadhafi is using far more drastic measures to avoid Mubarak’s fate: air strikes on his own people and fiery deaths for security officers who refuse his commands. (Wired, 2/21)

Libya’s Disordered Internet
Craig Labowitz at Arbor has been sifting through the evidence of how countries in the Middle East have been blocking and throttling the Internet in the last week. His analysis indicates that while both Bahrain and Yemen had periods of slowed or impaired access, only Libya seems to have taken the drastic step of shutting off the Net entirely. Libya’s Net crackdown, however, hasn’t shown the same consistency as Egypt’s six-day long blackout. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 2/22)

Internet Censorship in China

China President Call for More Internet Oversight
Chinese President Hu Jintao called on Saturday for stricter government management of the Internet while calls for gatherings inspired by uprisings in the Middle East spread on Chinese websites abroad. (Reuters, 2/19)

How Microbloggers Vaulted the Great Firewall of China
Type the words “Egypt,” “Tiananmen” or “June 4th, 1989″ into any of China’s microblogging sites and the search will return this message: “According to relevant law and regulations, the results are not displayed.” But type in “8×8″ — shorthand for 64, in turn shorthand for 6/4 or June 4th; the date of the Tiananmen crackdown — and you may catch some lively and surprisingly open exchanges on the social networking sites. Censorship has been a way of life in China for more than 60 years and the cat-and-mouse game of getting around it is a high art. (CNN, 2/20)

Q&A With Rebecca MacKinnon: Internet in China
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on “Internet freedom” last week, and she singled out China and other authoritarian countries for facing a “dictator’s dilemma” in their attempts to control the Internet. For analysis, I turned to Rebecca MacKinnon, who knows as much as anyone about the Internet in China. (The New Yorker, 2/22)
China Co-Opts Social Media to Head Off Unrest
China’s domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, added his voice to calls for tighter Internet controls as censors ratcheted up temporary online restrictions, a day after a failed attempt to use social-networking sites to start a “Jasmine Revolution” in China. (Wall Street Journal, 2/22)

150,000 Cell Phone Users Bugged In China
A new mobile phone virus has been discovered to have infected 150,000 people in China allowing hackers to remotely monitor calls, according to the Beijing Times on Wednesday. (Asia One Digital, 2/23)

Tiananmen 2.0: Why China Is Not Immune to the Tunisia Effect
Is China ready for a revolution 2.0? There are nearly half a billion internet users in China today. China’s social media networks are expanding rapidly — Chinese Facebook look-alike Renren has 170 million users and microblogging site Sina has 75 million users. In spite of China’s great firewall, Chinese netizens have learned to circumvent the censors and read between the lines. (Huffington Post, 2/24)

China Blocks Access to LinkedIn
Users in China are reporting that access to LinkedIn has been blocked throughout the country. By all indications, it seems that the popular career networking site has run afoul of the country’s infamous Great Firewall. According to LinkedIn’s Hani Durzy, the company is aware of a blockage in China and is “currently in the process of investigating the situation further.” (CNN, 2/25)

China Mobile, Xinhua Launch Chinese Search Engine
China Mobile and China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency have launched a new search engine at Panguso.com that will also tap the country’s growing mobile Internet market. (PC World, 2/22)

China Launches New State-Run Search Engine
China has unveiled a new government-run search engine that will square off against market leader Baidu. Launched today and operated by telecom company China Mobile and state-run news agency Xinhua, Panguso will let people search for news, Web sites, images, videos, and audio, according to Xinhua. (CNET, 2/22)

Global Censorship Update

Sub-Saharan Africa Censors Mideast Protests
As news of Middle Eastern and North African protests swirl around the globe, satellite television and the Internet prove vital sources of information for Africans as governments fearful of an informed citizenry and a free press such as in Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe impose total news blackouts on the developments. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 2/18)

Syria: Another Blogger Jailed as Social Media Fuels Protests in the Arab World
At a time when online activism can be risky, as it is credited with — or blamed for — fanning the flames of activism sweeping the region, a veteran Syrian blogger has been arrested. Ahmad Abu Khair was pulled over and arrested early Sunday morning while driving from the coastal town of Banias to Damascus, according to the advocacy group Global Voices and a Facebook group calling for his release (link in Arabic). The charges against him are still unknown, but Khair was enthusiastic in his online support of the ouster of former Tunisian President Zine al Abadine Ben Ali. (LA Times, 2/21)

Iranian Hackers Attack Voice of America
Iranian cyberterrorists attacked the Voice of America’s websites on Sunday and Monday nights, temporarily filling the sites with anti-American propaganda. The Voice of America is the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States government. (Fast Company, 2/22)

Intermediaries Are Targets in New Attempts to Suppress Free Expression Online in Southeast Asia, Say Internet Experts
Internet experts from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia expressed concern about the ongoing regional trend of targeting online intermediaries in attempts to control the flow of information in cyberspace. (IFEX, 2/23

Iran TV and Radio to Boost Disinformation
Rooz Online, a website run by Iranian exiles, reports that state TV network has boosted its cyber division. Using hackers, the latter plans to infiltrate popular internet sites to spread false news and plant fake videos. (SperoNews, 2/23)

Fighting Internet Oppression in Pakistan
Pakistan coordinator Shahzad Ahmad, of the South Asian internet rights campaign group Bytes for All, tells ORGZine about the media, the internet, the law and their campaigns in Pakistan. (ORGZine, 2/24)

U.S. Government’s Net Freedom Agenda

Freedom.gov
Why Evgeny Morozov thinks Washington’s support for online democracy is the worst thing ever to happen to the Internet. (Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2011)

Netizens Unite
Clay Shirky reluctantly agrees with the conclusion of Evgeny Morozov’s latest article: that the United States has not merely done a poor job of establishing digital freedoms elsewhere in the world, but may in fact have damaged that cause. (Foreign Policy, March/April 2011)

Internet Freedom and the U.S. State Department
Host Michele Norris speaks with Alec Ross, a senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They discuss Internet freedom and why it’s a top priority for the State Department. (NPR, 2/17)

Conversation with America: A Discussion on the State Department’s Internet Freedom Strategy
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, held a conversation with Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, on the State Department’s internet freedom strategy. The discussion was moderated by P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and streamed live on DipNote, the Department of State’s official blog. (DipNote, 2/18)

State Department to Spend Part of $150 Million for Egyptian Transition on Digital Training
Now that the euphoria of revolution is waning in Egypt, the hard work has begun to figure out what comes next. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. is setting aside $150 million to help Egypt with that process. Now Alec Ross, Clinton’s senior advisor for innovation, tells Fast Company that a portion of that money will probably go toward helping Egyptians learn about and use digital tools to facilitate the process of transition. (Fast Company 2/23)

Mobile Tech Activists Wary of State Department Cash
If technology advisers to online activists have their way, the mobile phones in the pockets of the democracy protesters reshaping the Middle East will have circumvention and anonymity tools built in to them, and they’ll be able to go blank if pro-regime goons confiscate them. The State Department wants to fund the development of precisely such activist tools. Only the activists aren’t exactly jumping to take the government’s cash. (Wired, 2/24)

Digital Media and Democracy

The Global Impact of the Internet
Is the internet helping to free people from oppressive governments or is it simply giving those authoritarian regimes another way to spy on dissidents?  Ethan Zuckerman from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society joins Brooke and Bob to discuss the internet’s role — for better or for worse — in uprisings from Iran to Egypt. (On the Media, 2/18)

Smart Dictators Don’t Quash the Internet
The Egyptian experience suggests that social media can greatly accelerate the death of already dying authoritarian regimes. But while it’s important to acknowledge the role that the Internet played in the Egyptian uprising, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the protesters were blessed with a government that didn’t know a tweet from a poke. The lethal blow that the Internet has helped to deliver to the Mubarak regime is likely to push fellow tyrants to catch up on the latest developments in Silicon Valley and learn the ropes of online propaganda. (Wall Street Journal, 2/19)

Introduction to Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy
Reading Philip Howard’s “Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy” and Evgeny Morozov’s “Net Delusion” back-to-back over a 10-day period in January was quite a trip. The two authors couldn’t possibly be more different in terms of tone, methodology and research design. Howard’s approach is rigorous and balanced. He takes a data-driven, mixed-methods approach that ought to serve as a model for the empirical study of digital activism. (Patrick Meier, 2/22)

A Freedom of Information Tipping Point
We’re witnessing that the old media can still be censored, but that the people are now always a step ahead of the tyrants. (Guardian, 2/23)

Internet Democracy (Discussion)
It is certainly true that the internet alone will not foment a revolution. Few have ever argued that it could. But the extent to which it can help, or even hinder, democratic movements remains hotly contested. And far from clarifying matters, dramatic events in the Arab world have fed both sides of the debate. Evgeny Morozov and John Palfry debate whether or not the Internet is a force for democracy. (Economist, 2/25)

Debating Online Anonymity

Would Anonymity Help Activists On Facebook? There is an interesting debate about whether Facebook, which theoretically insists on a real-name policy, should allow activists to use pseudonyms on the site. In 2010, the Egyptian We Are All Khaled Said group was deactivated by Facebook because the administrators had registered it under pseudonymous accounts. (RFE/RL, 2/24)

Would Anonymity Help Activists On Facebook?: A Response to Luke Allnutt
Luke Allnutt has a thoughtful piece on RFE/RL asking the above question: Would anonymity help activists on Facebook? His response, “maybe not,” relies on the idea that anonymity would be extended only to those with special “activist status,” something I haven’t heard concretely argued as a potential model but which is nonetheless troubling. (Jillian York, 2/24)

The Freedom To Be Who You Want To Be
We’ve been thinking about the different ways people choose to identify themselves (or not) when they’re using Google–in particular how identification can be helpful or even necessary for certain services, while optional or unnecessary for others. Attribution can be very important, but pseudonyms and anonymity are also an established part of many cultures — for good reason. When it comes to Google services, we support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified. And each mode has its own particular user benefits. (Google Public Policy Blog, 2/24)

Facebook Update

Facebook Meeting with Baidu Executives in Silicon Valley, Says Chinese Press
Sina News reported on Friday afternoon that unnamed Baidu executives have flown to Silicon Valley to discuss possible cooperation with Facebook. (Business Insider, 2/20)

Latest Digital Innovations

Telephone Journalism Connecting Indian Tribes to the World
Tribal citizen journalists in India have been reporting news in their own language through a new experiment using mobile phones – a project which hopes to connect rural regions to the rest of the world. (Deutsche Welle, 2/25)

Google Maps Mashup Documents Libyan Protests
Iranian Twitter activist Arasmus has created a Google Maps mashup to document protesters’ Twitter reports during the Libyan anti-government uprising. (Wired, 2/21)

Liberation by Software
Power has long been able to control the media. But the free software movement enables a radically democratic future. (Guardian, 2/24)

Etc.

What effect has the internet had on journalism?
The web is a valuable tool, but old-fashioned press practices can still be best. (Guardian, 2/20)

Research Update

New Report from the Global Network Initiative – Protecting Human Rights in the Digital Age
The report focuses on the emerging trends related to freedom of expression and privacy issues online in the two years since GNI was launched; the work of the current three member companies to implement GNI’s Principles and the vision and work for GNI in the future.