Forum 3: Liberation Technology

In Liberation Technology, Larry Diamond attempts to conceptualize the use of the Internet as a benevolent tool for global social justice, provide some critical insights into the article by Larry Diamond engaging with the notion of liberation technology and focusing on both its potentials and limits. Two secondary readings are provided engaging with some key concerns on ‘Internet freedom and abuse by states’. You can bring in any example from global affairs or American politics or society to justify your arguments.

Forum will be open for comments from 2/24 – 03/01 (Midnight)

Link to article: Liberation Technology

Secondary Readings

Link 1: FinFisher Story

Link 2: Russian Example


76 thoughts on “Forum 3: Liberation Technology

    Louie Freda said:
    February 24, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Larry Diamond defines liberation technology as “technology used to empower individuals, facilitate independent communication and mobilization, and strengthen an emergent civil society.” He correctly identifies that liberation technology is a two sided-coin, it can be used for good and evil. It can be used to increase citizen participation in government through empowering individuals, facilitating independent communication and mobilization, and strengthening an emergent civil society. Pessimistically many authoritarian regimes like China and Iran are using this technology to crack down on dissenters and control the access and content of the internet. His essential argument is “technology (including liberation technology) is merely a tool, open to both noble and nefarious purposes.
    Diamond uses Malaysiakini, an online opposition newspaper as an example. “They give the political opposition, which is largely shut out of the establishment media, a chance to make its case. In the process, they educate Malaysians politically and foster more democratic norms.” But even with Malaysiakini, Malaysia is still very authoritarian. A regime change towards democratization would use liberation technology as a tool, not as the principal reason for democratization. I believe Diamond and Manuel Castells would agree over the impact of liberation technology. Castells believed that digitally empowered citizens (Malaysian citizens) may have won important victories, but those victories are not necessarily permanent. China with its “Great Firewall” and other authoritarian regimes are fiercely contesting all of cyberspace.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 27, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Louie why don’t you engage with the two supplementary readings and look at how things have evolved in the context of cyber controls

        Louie Freda said:
        February 27, 2015 at 12:54 pm

        The story of Moosa Abd-Ali Ali illustrates that cyber controls are being used to disrupt and de-legitimize dissent and opposition groups. Only 24, Moosa was a cyber leader in the struggle against the Baharanian regime, he fled the country after a brutal encounter were he was raped and told if he didn’t stop his online campaigns his family was next. But Moosa wasn’t safe in England; the Bahrainian regime used a FinFisher virus to hack his virtual identity. This virus attempted to get information from Moosa’s friends and ruins his credibility by asking female friends for sex. Sadly this FinFisher’s dirty play is not an isolated incident, “FinFisher’s agents were everywhere: Japan, Germany, India, Serbia, Mongolia — there were even servers in the US. It was an atlas of personal invasions. All told, 25 countries hosted a server of some kind, each hired out to a different regime and pointing the x-ray at a different enemy of the state.” And even worse, “It’s too broad for local law enforcement and too small to warrant an international incident.” I believe Moosa’s story is really interesting and unique because in his case the authoritarian state contracted a non-state actor to violate the privacy of a dissenter. I believe that this could be the beginning of a dark and continuing trend of “outsourcing” a countries dirty to work to trans-national corporations who are able to slide through international prosecution.

        Grace Segrave said:
        March 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm

        I think you make a very valid point Louie that these big virtual hackers can get in into international arenas and avoid the prosecution. It crazy that the amount of countries these hackers can get into and how they can destroy a person plus their image! However what I found to be the most uneasy fact that A Spy in the Machine brought up was the fact that these hacker could just be ordinary citizens with the economic means. “Targeted exploits weren’t just for the NSA anymore. They were available to anyone who could pay for them.” The article shows that these intrusions via the internet on a multinational spectrum could potential be up in the air for the largest bidder and they could get away with it. It also does not have to be a professional employed by the state anymore and in fact it could just be one citizen. This makes me worried about the destruction one person could do with that amount of power and control they can access with the internet.

        Louie Freda said:
        March 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm

        Grace, I agree! Non-state actors are difficult to overcome because they are so different from each other. It is difficult to make an effective policy that applies to dealing with them because each group or person varies in ideology, methodology, and economic situation. An Internet where you are vulnerable to the predation from the highest bidder is not an Internet that liberates. It is in the best interests of the worlds democracies to have an Internet that allows for citizens to be all they can be. It leaves much of the developing world, and depending on the resources of the intruders, some of the developed world at risk loosing the power potential of the Internet. I believe that as long as states like Russia, China and North Korea offer sanctuaries for Internet rights abusers they will escape prosecution. It is a dangerous combination, the flexibility of non-state actors merged with the power and legitimacy of the state.

        cyberoutpost responded:
        March 1, 2015 at 5:02 pm

        I guess my idea or take in response to you and Grace is the fact that more and more Non State Actors seem to have some state interest or state connection, from Russian , Chinese Hackers to even American Hackers there seem to be some sort of state sponsorship, which can be a very dangerous trend which will isolate Internet freedom and using of the Internet for democratic purposes by the civil society

      Nick Moffitt said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      Louis, great analysis on the Diamond piece. I am interested to hear what your personal opinion is on the debate whether liberation technology is good or bad. Do you think that it can be useful in strengthening a society or do you feel the cons outweigh the potential pros?

    Alita said:
    February 24, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Liberation technology is fighting tooth and nail every step of the way to remain in the general population attention and stay available to all. The headliners fighting the good fight have become national figures and are steadily representing more than just their online companies. They are now advocates for our most basic right of free speech.
    However, as Diamond reported, this new wave of technology has both positive and negative sides to it. Citizens are being motivated to participate in the local and state level governments like never before. People understand the present issues and becoming more involved in their solutions. On the flip side these drastic advances in technologies also can work against the general public by specific players to limit global contacts via the Internet and other forms of the cyber world.
    The beneficial nature of liberation technology as a strategy for change has also been questioned. It is easy as we saw in the short clip of a Russian Internet mogul throwing paper plane made of money out of a buildings window. These displays thanks to social media are just as easily viewed around the world as some positive calls of action in the name of reforms and bettering society can be spread.
    Overall I feel Diamonds points about how, if used correctly, the entire society could benefit from liberation technology are a theory that resonates with me. However, words are more freely spoken via the Internet, and nothing can ever be taken back on the web. In these ways I feel we are in for more issues to come in the name of freedom of speech in all forms be it verbally or threw a keyboard.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 27, 2015 at 8:58 am

      Alita I would like to see you engage more with the supplementary readings to discuss and create an argument on liberation technology and cyber controls

      Michael Edson said:
      March 1, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      I agree with you Alita with how the more important issue of liberation technology is not so much the technology but use of free speech. I see that on the net people use looser language to encourage or attack a government. Which governments will pay more attention to as we might not to write harmful words but governments like Russia should not be allowed to arrest citizens for speaking their opinions. What is your opinion on governments having great data about anti- party/government blogs, (Knowing how many people go on to these websites and how popularity they are) do the governments have the right to stop these nasty un- true stories or by shutting down these site do the government violate net- neutrality?

    Joe said:
    February 26, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Larry Diamond does a great job of exploring the potential benefits and down falls of liberation technology. The main idea is that technology can now be used in a way in which people can make a difference politically. Technology has now gained the capacity to empower people, giving them the ability to share their thoughts. With this empowerment, now more than ever people have the ability to come together and communicate with one another about any issue. Ultimately liberation technology has provided a service that strengthens an emergent civil society.
    How does this work? One area of Diamonds article that really hit home for me, was the section regarding government accountability. Liberation technology has effectively changed the sphere of politics. Governments now more than ever must be accountable for all of their actions. For now we live in a world where if someones civil rights are being abused, its likely to be reported. Not only will it be reported, but it will likely be video taped, and posted directly to websites like YouTube, or Facebook for the world to see. This power through liberation technology effectively puts government institutions in a pressure situation. These institutions must now consider their actions more than before. Their is no room for any error, because with today’s liberation technologies its likely that you will be caught and held accountable.
    On the other hand, these liberation technologies could pose a potential problem to the now empowered public. A perfect example of this is the Russian social net worker Pavel Durov. Durov designed a social media website by the name of VKontakte. The main purpose of his social network was to communicate with people about the downfalls of Vladmir Putin. Ultimately he was aiming to have him not get re-elected. The problem with this is that Vladmir Putin did not take his popular networking page lightly. He sent armed troops to his apartment with orders to have the website taken down. Although Pavel Durov did not crack, he did find himself literally in the middle of a war regarding liberation technology.
    Ultimately I think that both the pros and cons of liberation technology will always exist. However the pros and cons should not out weigh the effectiveness in which liberation technologies operate. Theres no denying just how powerful a tool liberation technology is.

    cyberoutpost responded:
    February 27, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Joe it would be nice to see if you can read the piece on Finfsher and debate the role of government accountability in the wake of how sophisticated governments can be with the emerging censorship industry

      Joe said:
      February 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      After reading the article I was immediately taken back at the severity of Moosa’s case. His life was literally taken over by the government of Bahrain. Not only was he forced to move from his home country to London because of the fear of losing his life, he was also brutally beaten and raped with no justification. Upon leaving Bahrain just when he thought things would get better his whole life was hacked by a spyware technology called Finfisher.
      The government went ahead and hacked all his outlets of social media and took control of all the data on his computer making him out to be someone he was not, in a negative light. Eventually it came out that the government of Bahrain was using finfisher to spy on a lot of people.
      Governments who are using this as a practice should be held accountable for their actions. I think there should be a higher form of data governance that can hold governments like Bahrain’s accountable for their actions. This is clearly a violation of human rights and should not be tolerated in todays society.

    Zayn Thompson said:
    February 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Liberation technology, as Larry Diamond describes, is “any form of information and communication technology that can expand political, social, and economic freedom.” Basically, it is referring to modern devices such as phones, along with social media applications such as twitter, being able to garner enough attention that they can influence decisions in the government. Diamond’s first example, regarding Sun Zhigang, perfectly displays the impact and potential of liberation technology. Were it not for Twitter, Facebook, phones, and the Internet, the awareness of Zhigang’s death would have been significantly lower, and would not have prompted change to “Custody and Reparations.” Because of modern technology, information and awareness about possible controversial subjects can be learned about and spread very easily, making it hard for governments to cover up cases such as Zhigang’s.
    With all of the positives that can come from liberation technology, there are negative aspects as well. Autocratic nations such as China can use their control of the nation by limiting what can and can’t be accessed by their people, as well as control and limit others who pose a threat to the regime. Form this we see that liberation technology is a device that can be used for both good and bad aspirations. Diamond’s example of this is during the Sun outrage, Yizhong, an editor, was jailed in response to his efforts to spread awareness about the wrongdoing done to Zhigang. From Diamond’s article, we know liberation technology can be used for both good and bad. I think that we will continue to see its impact globally, and see it spread as technology becomes an even bigger part of out lives.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 27, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      you could further develop your argument based on the two secondary readings

        Zayn Thompson said:
        March 1, 2015 at 4:04 pm

        The article about Moosa also personifies the dual threat of technology. Moosa was a well-known anti-government activist in Bahrain who protested many issues, including equal employment rights. However, soon after he fled the country to the UK, the same social networking sites that helped him were used against him. Someone had been typing all sorts of false information about him under his name, and Moosa soon realized his privacy had been breached by use of intrusive spyware. This Spyware, named FinFisher, is basically a ‘for-hire’ device that can be used for spying. The problem here is that this is from an arbitrary source, so linking the use of it to the supplier is difficult, as the protesters in Egypt found out.
        The technology that was originally so successful in helping Moosa spread his voice on issues ended up hurting him as well. This further illustrates the good and bad nature of liberation technology.

        Zayn Thompson said:
        March 1, 2015 at 4:27 pm

        The article on Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most popular social network site, VK, showed me how liberation technology in countries like Russia can only go so far. Durov was battling for the freedom of speech on social media sites, a battle that lingered, but was ultimately brought down. VK was originally used as a source for illegal entertainment, but quickly transitioned into a platform for political activists. As government attention was turned towards Durov’s site, his initial investors sold their portions of the company. Durov had limited say and control in VK, and finally sold it off.
        I think that liberation technology is a great thing, and it will continue to have an impact globally. But, as we see in Russia and Bahrain, some countries will force your hand, limit what you can do, and untimely defeat people like Durov and Mossa in their attempts to question and oppose the government.
        Moosa and Durov are both great example of how liberation technology can take hold, gain momentum, and really spread awareness of many issues. But, other technology such as FinFisher, can be used by the government to thwart any attempts to de-legitimize their regime. As we see, technology is a two-way device, and can be used to hinder or aid attempts to gain more freedom.

        cyberoutpost responded:
        March 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

        Zayne like your last point, which actually counters the argument that Internet controls can benefit the state, even for a story of this sort to come out it is only possible because of the Internet!

      Nick Moffitt said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Zayn, your point on liberation technology being a negative in China is intriguing. Because of China’s policy of censoring all news and social media that gives the nation a negative view I feel liberation technology isn’t a topic that is well known everywhere. If the people of nations that censor like China knew about liberation technology how do you think they would view it?

    Mike Gellman said:
    February 27, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    One aspect of the article that I found especially interesting was Diamond’s description of liberation technology as a, “two sided coin”. He sighted past versions of liberation technology like the printing press and the telegraph as tools that are seen as good but that actually brought about, “the bloodiest century in human history”. New forms liberation technology often comes along with the idea that they will only make things better, a “technological utopianism,” but in reality they create problems as well. In the end Diamond summaries technology as “merely a tool, open to both noble and nefarious purposes”.
    This concept of a two sided coin interested me because you saw it come up in almost every situation that was described in these articles. In the opening paragraphs where the story of Sun Zhigang is told, you see that the internet and other forms of liberation technology were used to great effect. It was a rare time where Chinese officials were actually punished for their crimes (with more than 800 Custody and Repatriation centers being shut down). However, swift and decisive action was taken against the activists and many of them were jailed. This story had a very similar theme to the FinFisher story. Moosa Anb-Ali Ali was a prominent anti-government activist in his home country of Buhrain. He lead protests and held a prominent social media following. But one night men showed up and Ali’s door and took him from his home. He was taken to a dark ally where he was beaten and raped. Ali soon moved away from Buhrain with the hopes that he would leave his tormenting government as well. This turned out not to be the case because in a few years the Buhrain government hacked his phone and went as far as blackmailing him to stop his activism by attacking his friends and family through social media. Both these stories showed that even though the liberation technologies are a great tool for bringing about change and exposing government wrong doings, it often comes with repercussions from the governments that are being exposed.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 27, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Mike do you even think the term liberation is valid with the ongoing state manipulation of cyber space and use of it for repression of dissent?

        Mike Gellman said:
        February 28, 2015 at 4:41 pm

        When you see the extent at which governments are able use technology to suppress their people it can be very hard to view technology as liberating. Using the large amount of resources and money at their disposal, states are able to create technology that is incredibly efficient at censoring their populations internet. For example, China’s “Great Firewall” does an extraordinarily good job at controlling what the largest internet population (380 million people) is able to see. However, as hard as these governments try they still can not stop all the activism that takes place using cyber space. Activist find a way around the restriction placed on their technology and continue to use it to great effect. For this reason I would still say the term liberation is valid when talking about technology.

      Zoë said:
      February 27, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      I also thought that Diamond’s description of the double sided coin was a very interesting concept. Like many pioneers of Cyber Utopianism that we’ve mentioned in class, I would like to think that the potential held in the Internet are more beneficial than harmful. Experience with positive networks, seemingly harmless interactions on social media, and the ease that comes with online research and knowledge creation has lead me to my optimistic outlook. But there are indeed downfalls. I think that my optimism is prevalent due to my privileged existence and use of the web during the course of my lifetime. The secondary readings however report on what is important to note about the complexities of cyber usage; that which is far from my experience. What stands out to me is that all three of the articles deal with the innate power struggle of control. I value what the web enables for global citizens of the world, and the ability to empower people and increase interactions. Especially in the article about Russian social media founder, Pavel Durov, it became clear to me that not every actor in control of the web will find empowerment and communication to be positive. The example of web freedom in the protest event page clashing with the government is a paradigm for this power struggle. The contrast between control of the web with its liberating qualities will stand if not grow stronger in the coming years.

      Joe said:
      February 28, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Do you think liberation technologies have given governments to much power?
      Its not hard to imagine that the technologies the government has access to are far more advanced than the technology citizens have access to. Perhaps the dark side of the double sided coin in this case in todays technological world will be far worse than in the past with the printing press and the telegraph.

        Zoë Kagan said:
        March 1, 2015 at 5:15 pm

        Joe, I think that certain governments may exercise too much control over what technology has become in the hands of citizens with access. Liberation technologies are good, but governments who wish to censor content or control the views of its citizens will certainly need advanced resources. I agree that imagining what technology our government, for example, has access to that we may not know about is potentially worrying. With that being said, the U.S. government must garner some control in order to project power. What is worrying to me is the fact that resources gained often tie into corporations, which blur the line between for whom the government is existing: companies or its citizens. Although, this is not something that is always clear to the citizens. For example in the FinFisher article, FinFisher was sold by Gamma International, which has its main offices in London and Frankfurt. FinFisher was very powerful, according to the article it could allow its users to employ “the kinds of advanced intrusion techniques usually reserved for the NSA.” Selling international surveillance software to other countries could be strategic, and of course important to be hidden in some cases. According to the article, this may have been the case, when Arab Spring protestors “found evidence of FinFisher use by the Mubarak government in Egypt, Gamma simply said the software had been stolen. No one was ever able to prove otherwise.”

        cyberoutpost responded:
        March 1, 2015 at 5:20 pm

        Zoe, I like the observation about the blurring lines between corporate and state interests, this is relevant to many cases but there is an unprecedented increase of this phenomena in the cyber security industry

        Mike Gellman said:
        March 1, 2015 at 9:36 pm

        In some ways liberation technologies do give the government to much power. The thing about technology that is scary to me is the amount of data that has been collected about people. Where a person goes, who they talk to and what they like to do is all accessible to the person or group with the right tools. Like you said, governments (with their large amounts of capital) are much more likely to have advanced technology that could get information like this. The FinFisher story is a great example of this threat because it showed the damage governments can do using technology. In this case, they targeted someone that wasn’t even within their own country. The Buhrain government was able to hack Moosa Anb-Ali Ali’s phone and view his private information as well as hurt his personal relationships through impersonating him on his social media. Stories like this does make me think that technology make it easier for states to repress people. On the other hand these technologies are probably the strongest tool average citizens have ever had against governments. So in conclusion, I don’t have a definitive answer for you. This technology is very new so I feel like we will have to wait and see if the good outweighs the bad or vice versa.

    cyberoutpost responded:
    February 28, 2015 at 8:19 am

    you could actually elaborate on your optimism, bring out why you make that claim and also you could engage with the FinFisher story

      Zoë Kagan said:
      March 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      As discussed a bit in last week’s WebEx group, I think my optimism may be a fault of the U.S. government. The U.S. projects incredible power, but it may be ill-equipped to handle web-based crime such as hacks. If the government cannot understand the power that the web holds for myriad possibilities, good and bad, its people will also likely misunderstand it. I grew up with so much access to the internet yet nothing bad ever happened, so I was never forced to understand the darker side of the web and its consequences. The FinFisher story presents a very in-depth example of this issue that I certainly could not have fathomed before forcing myself to think more about online actions as I got older. I think that the youth of today have even more access, so they are more educated on the increasingly dominant world of cyber possibilities. The only personal experience I have had to relate to the FinFisher story is the recent credit card information hacks that came from Target stores in the U.S. My credit card information was stolen, but thankfully I was notified of this soon enough for nothing at all to have changed. An action like this, one that I could not control (other than somehow anticipating Target stores hackers) is scary. Ones like the example of the FinFisher cell phone implant are just as worrying, also out of the phone owner’s control. The quotations about possibly being watched by a phone by security director Morgan Marquis-Boire exemplify worries that many ‘normal’ citizens like me have today: “‘I’d be working at my computer and start squinting at my phone, thinking, maybe I should turn that off,’ Marquis-Boire says. ‘It produced this weird dissonance between me and this device that I carry around all the time.'”

        Michael Edson said:
        March 1, 2015 at 10:28 pm

        Hey Zoe, I know that story give people a scary view about how far the government will go to protect its state. I thought it was interesting how he was on Facebook Messenger and saw that someone was hacked his account but typing to one of his friends. That is when you know that a state will go far enough to make sure that they destroy someone. The Bahraini government has a similar government as the British parliament but is scarier because it is still run by monarchs, the Khalifa family, which has higher consequences. I know some people might not believe me but since the Khalifa family runs the government there is more of an emotional tie to not loose their country to a person who doesn’t share their beliefs. I see Moosa as a non-violent political activist but the Bahraini see Moosa as a national threat. Moosa is like Edward Snowden to but threatening the Bahaini government. I do not believe that this is right but in our discussion last week some of us see Snowden as a threat while others see him as a hero. Giving information through liberation technology can be very dangerous.

    Grace Segrave said:
    February 28, 2015 at 8:25 am

    While reading this article I could not get out of my head the events that went down in Tiananmen Square and where China is today. This sort of free press and spread of an injustice against a civilian is something that has not seen a lot in Chinas history. We see that some were prisoned for their action but even with this news, there created a “first time…peaceful outpouring of public opinion had forced the Communist Chinese state to change a national regulation”.. The internet age has helped the people of China to take little strikes at the Chinese government until something actually happened. This action showed courage that the internet gave the people of China.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 28, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      This is an important point, but it would be good if you can elaborate your position on the Diamond paper or the supplementary readings

    jsroot11 said:
    February 28, 2015 at 10:32 am

    “Liberation technology is any form of information and communication technology (ICT) that can expand political, social, and economic freedom.” This definition given by Larry Diamond sums up what his article is based around. Technology has evolved into a form of liberation. Diamond provides numerous examples of how technology, such as cell phones, youtube, google, etc, have all contributed towards an explosion of movements towards liberation and justice. His strongest example comes from his opening scenario in china. The death of a Chinese native by the police, and the uproar it created after the story hit the internet. There is no question, over the past 10 years or so, the internet has created a new for of liberation, and in return has caused an out cry for justice. One part of the article that seemed underdeveloped, yet very important is this issue of accountability. Should people be held accountable for what is put on youtube, or in general the internet. Diamond explains that liberation technology is accountability technology. Meaning, officials and unofficial can use technology to demand justice, such as videos posted to youtube. In recent news, in New York City, a police officer was filmed chocking out a man, and killing him. The video was uploaded online, and created a wave of outcry against that officer and the entire force. This is when I believe liberation technology gets controversial. Can you base entire movement off a video, without having the full story? Diamond explains this as a two sided coin, the good and the bad. For some its good, for other, the governments and officials, its bad. Major out cries, such as the ones Diamond explains supports both sides. Justice is wanted, but to what cost does justice require?

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 28, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      I like how you bring in the Justice discussion into the conversation, it would be nice to make connections broadly to the discussion on Justice, perception of public and democracy by engaging with the supplementary readings

      Zoë said:
      March 1, 2015 at 9:34 am

      I agree with your insights. At the cost of justice however, I am not sure I can answer. According to the readings, justice may be exclusive to actors who have resources for control, usually governments.

        jsroot11 said:
        March 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm

        Zoe, I agree. I believe justice today in our world is carried out by the party with the most influence, control, and power. After reading the FinFish article, I could not help but think that situations like this are anyones nightmare. Having your own government black mail, and punish those who speak out against the government. Where does justice come in on these situations? I noticed the country has close ties with the US and England. I find this ironic. Two nations based around forms of democracy, are friends with nations that do not allow freedom of speech over the internet. Where is the Justice in this?

    Nick Moffitt said:
    February 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    According to Diamond’s article titled :Liberation Technology, the concept of Liberation Technology is known as “technology used to empower individuals, facilitate independent communication and mobilization, and strengthen an emergent civil society.” In the article Diamond attempts to conceptualize the use of the Internet as a benevolent tool for global social justice and in doing so raises a significant idea. Much like anything in today’s world it can be used for good and for bad having many pro’s and cons. The pros of Liberation Technology can be seen in the Chinese case Diamond explains to the reader. After a Chinese citizen was killed by the police the story hit the internet and took off like crazy. Which is interesting when thinking about the strict censoring the Chinese government does. I really like John’s point when talking about using a video to get justice. Many times videos are uploaded to the web showing a good or bad situation but most of the time doesnt have the context or back story to go along with it thus leaving the viewer with a false opinion

      cyberoutpost responded:
      February 28, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      You could elaborate more on the article, I feel you can make connections to the supplementary readings to discuss the core observations made by Diamond along with your thoughts

      Ibrahim Khan said:
      March 2, 2015 at 12:29 am

      Nick, I share the same view as yours about possibility of videos directing a false opinion among citizens. I have no doubt that in some situations many governments, in order to sell their ideas put their energy in establishing a fabricated story in their favor by using a part of video or an audio recording of whoever their opponent or resistance is at that moment.

    Kyle Swartz said:
    February 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Diamond begins by giving an example of how liberation technology has been used in China to bring awareness to the wrongful death of Sun Zhigang, a 27-year-old man who was apprehended by police because he could not find his temporary living permit and ID. It was found through autopsy that he had died from being beaten while in police custody. Technology has proven to be a useful tool for people to communicate between each other, organize in demonstration, and expose the government in various instances in the past. Undoubtedly, technology will continue to expose governments around the world in the future. The problem is that governments will not just let the people expose secrets or problems without a fight. Just like the Chinese government did to Xu Zhiyong’s website about Sun Zhigang’s case, the government will continue to try and censor the public from information and freedoms that people have. It has proven to be able to do this in the past with printed and broadcasted news media in Malaysia as Diamond notes, and it is only a matter of time before governments figure out how they can successfully censor the media on a large scale with Internet media outlets. These sorts of activities are in no way legal in the United States, but how can we just sit by and watch countries do this sort of thing to the future of media? There must be some international law that prohibits this sort of thing because of the fact that anything on the Internet can be seen by the entire world. There are clearly two sides to the coin as diamond says as well as two actors which manipulate liberation technology. The argument can be made the the government has access to this technology as well so therefore it is a balanced conflict. The fact is though that it is a civilian-sided conflict because the people have the power to attack and expose the government for any wrong they do while the government can only try to defend itself.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      March 1, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Kyle apply this analysis to the secondary readings where some case studies are presented and then develop your own argument

        Kyle Swartz said:
        March 1, 2015 at 4:40 pm

        The FinFisher story discusses the events surrounding the beatings and escape of Moosa Abd-Ali Ali and how the government of Bahrain had hired a company by the name of Gamma International to spy on him after he had fled to London. Although Ali was an anti-government activist working against Bahrain, the government stepped beyond what is legally allowed to implant spyware, which was never reportedly sold to hackers within the EU. Not only did they make clear trade violations, but they also violated UK hacking laws. The FinFisher story is a clear example of technology being a two-sided coin. Ali had been using technology for anti-governmental activism while the government had used this technology to spy on Ali and other activists who had left the country. Bahrain and Gamma International should be punished and prosecuted not only by the UK and the European Union, but the United Nations as well for violating international trade laws, international hacking laws, and for violating basic human rights such as the freedom of speech. It is scary to think that a virtual program like the FinFisher spyware could pry its way into our computers and control the microphone and camera as well as listen in on Skype calls and key-log passwords so whoever is paying for the service will have all of your passwords and information. As was mentioned in the article, this type of surveillance was originally reserved only for the NSA, what are we supposed to do now that it is available to those willing to pay for the service? I would say that we should deem the sale of this sort of software should be illegal and the business to develop the software should be reserved for highly classified government agencies, but that opportunity has long since passed. The only option we have now is to restrict the development of future surveillance capabilities, update security programs to detect and destroy these programs, and further develop the capabilities that allow us to produce these cyber weapons.

        cyberoutpost responded:
        March 1, 2015 at 5:05 pm

        My guess is when you work with the economic logic of surveillance industry it seems next to impossible to create some sort of federal ban or limit, as they seem to be bringing in a lot of Money for Western businesses, these are tough times for activists or people who rely on the Internet for political action

        Kyle Swartz said:
        March 1, 2015 at 6:02 pm

        Professor, do you believe it is safe to say then that activists are fighting a battle with tools that are consistently becoming more and more out-dated? If an activist uses social media to post about the government, there is no real way for activists to prevent governments from increasing abilities to censor information or shut down websites. The tools of the government are ever-increasing with their capabilities whilst the tools of the activist are somewhat stuck in one place. Yes, technology in general is increasing; but compared to the technological capabilities of governments, the activist is frozen in time until the next big social media overhaul.

        cyberoutpost responded:
        March 1, 2015 at 6:10 pm

        Well, sometimes in technology and politics, it is not the one who has the latest tech that wins, but the one who is innovative enough, we will have this conversation more when we start focusing on Internet activism in couple of weeks

        reed mcleod said:
        March 1, 2015 at 8:18 pm

        I enjoyed reading both of your comments regarding technological advances for both governments and activist. There is no doubt that government institutions have the advantage due to the extensive security software market. And this will only continue to grow as the market expands. Although this will pose as a challenge for activist world wide, the market for communications platforms/Liberation technologies will also have a similar expansion in western businesses. In the end, the push for technological advancements are motivated by profits. If a software/social media company believes that it can make more money selling their product the the public, in comparison to the government, they will do so. There only has to be a greater public demand for this so-called product.

      Nick Moffitt said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      Kyle, I agree with your opinion on the pros of liberation technology. I see it as a tool that can help more than hurt. The fact that it can be used to serve as justice and solve crimes and stop catastrophes from happening gives me enough of an incentive to be on board with it. Yes it has its drawbacks like everything else in the world but I feel the potential pros outweigh the cons

        Nick Ford said:
        March 2, 2015 at 12:02 am

        I also agree with Kyle and Nick, though when dealing with such a large and powerful entity like social media, it is hard to weigh out the pros and cons, as they will always be present. Social media platforms and new media technologies are quickly evolving and making further advancements every year. We just have to accept social media for what it is and take advantage of all the benefits and resources that it offers.

      Zayn Thompson said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Kyle, I agree with you that something should be done to stop these foreign countries from censoring things such as major media outlets. Also, I agree that there are definitely two sides to the coin, as we have seen in multiple examples that technology can be used as both a liberation and oppression tool. I feel that because of the governments ability to censor, they may have the upper hand in preventing liberation.

    reed mcleod said:
    February 28, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    I personally do not like the word “Liberation Technology”. Although this technology is helping citizens (or nitezens) communicate in ways that have never happened before, it is also gives power-hungry governments another weapon in the fight against democracy. Nothing could make me more paranoid about my smartphone after reading the Finfisher article. Knowing that some agency can hack into almost every aspect of your phone is very frightening. Not only could this software read simple messages that have been sent onto your phone, but it also has the power to record almost every processed information on the phone.
    Although the Chinese government is mostly abusing their authoritative power over the citizens, I could not help but be impressed with their superior firewall system and censorship abilities. With a population of China’s along with the rapid growth of internet users, it is fairly remarkable that China is able maintain their Ironfist over the data. My only question is whether there may be a limit to this control. As the article shows, many Chinese citizens have been able to penetrate this suppressive system through satirical cartoons and other creative methods. With the future increase of internet users, I am curious on how China will continue to maintain the grasp over censorship. Despite the success they have had in this effort, I do see the increase in Liberation Technology having a democratic effect towards the country, while giving more power to the citizens.

      Joe said:
      March 1, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      I like your opening statement in this post, “I personally do not like the word “Liberation Technology””. I agree that liberation technology gives incentive for governments to act in undemocratic ways. The more I think about the possibility of someone hacking onto my Iphone, the more worried I get for my personal privacy. I think that we share an agreement that liberation technology is a dangerous tool if used improperly or for the wrong reasons, especially by the government. It creates a situation in which human rights can be violated easily. The Finfisher article provides some good insight to this argument.

      Nick Ford said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:56 pm

      Reed, you make a great point when you talk about the Finfisher article. It is very scary to think that your phone calls and text messages can be constantly surveilled by agencies. After reading the article, you begin to ask yourself “when is enough enough?” and when does personal privacy and human rights come into play? With that being said, do you think agencies like this should be surveilled and controlled by a higher power, as they do to us?

    Ibrahim Khan said:
    February 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Larry Diamond in his article states “Liberation technology enables citizens to report news, expose wrongdoing, express opinions, mobilize protest, monitor elections, scrutinize government, deepen participation, and expand the horizons of freedom.” It gives normal citizens or “netizens” the power to challenge the institutions and people in power to implement justice and punish the wrongdoer. Larry gives an example of a 27 year old Chinese man who had been brutally murdered by the Police while in custody in China. Newspapers and websites published the account which resulted in a massive uproar making the incident a national story. The authorities then were forced to hold an independent inquiry which resulted in finding twelve culprits responsible for murder. Information through newspapers, websites, and comments on blogs gave people a platform to come together in confidence, express freely and fight for justice which might not have possible without liberation technology. Two years ago in Karachi, Pakistan, a 20 year old kid was brutally shot several times by a son of an influential politician and his guards over a minor argument. Usually, people stay away from speaking or rising against a powerful individual in Pakistan but this time it was different. With the increase in internet use and netizens in Pakistan, the act was highly condemned. Facebook and SMS text messages were being sent frequently informing about the next move of protesting which forced the authorities to proceed investigation and put the culprit behind bars until courts gave a decision.
    Larry also mentioned that a “crucial pillar of authoritarian rule is control of information”. To counter censorship and keeping citizens well informed there is a need for an easily accessible platform, where anyone can express freely. Malaysiakini is one example used by Larry. Malaysiakini, an online newspaper which has become a major source of information for Malaysians. The parties in power have strong control over media and printing press, thus it shapes what Malaysians see and read.Through Malaysiakini true and actual facts get highlighted without any discrimination. Citizens got a chance to get informed about corruption, ethnic discrimination, human rights abuses and police brutality. This is a very positive achievement by liberation technology which Larry also terms ass “Accountability technology”
    Digital Mobilization is another important part of the article. A clip of an Iranian citizen, Neda being shot started a huge movement in Tehran. Videos and pictures make the story more personal and real than just hearing about a story which is why so many Iranian citizens stood up for Neda. Another example which I can think of is the election of 2013 in Pakistan. After elections there was strong accusation by an opposition party that the government rigged elections. It was proved when there were a number of cellphone videos recorded showing people putting extra votes in the voting box.

    As much as it is a blessing that internet is accessible to all, at times it has its costs. One of the biggest problem is identity theft. The two supplementary articles give examples of that. One article talks about how a Bahrani activist faced trouble in Bahrain and UK for being an activist. Due to frequent tortures from authorities in Bahrain Moosa left for London where he thought he would be safe. To his surprise, the Bahrain government was constantly spying on him and other activists even while they were in London. His every move was known by the government. They used FinFish to get access to his phone and computers. With the use of FinFish, the hackers basically could pretend to be Moosa without anyone realizing it. This could be a serious problem in the future around the world in any country that gets hacked by FinFish. Anyone capable of using such devices could bring up problems for individuals. Any random person who knows information about an individual could pretend to be someone and get things done. There are many cases in Pakistan where people make fake profiles of people specially celebrities and make a fool out of people.

    To me the two ideas, the first getting constantly spied and not be aware be of it, and the second someone else pretending to be me are very daunting. This is a power when under the wrong hands can make things totally upside down. Once these two aspects and censorship by states can be overcome, the major costs of liberation technology will be gone and it will only make the people empowered, informed, engaged and involved about what is happening around them and therefore they can react accordingly as one unit for a better cause.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      March 1, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Ibrahim good analysis but the comment could have been broken into two comments for clarity and consistency where you could encourage a conversation with others

    Andrew Wanamaker said:
    February 28, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    After reading “Liberation Technology” by Larry Diamond I found his article to be quite interesting. When we analyze the effects that the internet has it is important to understand that what ICT does as it allows loosely organized individuals with no specific goal or program to form a collaborative force. What is making the internet such a powerful tool for mobilization and protesting among non democratic states is that there is such persistence and loop holes to get around the governments censorship.

    For example in China many of the young bloggers who are protesting their restricted rights have ways of still sharing an idea but in a way that makes fun of the state. The mud and horse example has been seen as an icon of resistance to censorship among white collar workers to serious scholars. The list goes on with different examples of how information over the web, text messages, and blogs can be spread so fast but what the main issue I see with this is that once a group of mobilizers get picked off if they gain a big enough audience there is a chance the government will be able to prepare it’s self and find a way to defend. The governments that control national issues generally are so powerful and can cause limitations for certain activists.

    The internet I would say is still at such an early stage that people are not even seeing the full benefits of it. I am sure there are many Chinese/Iran/Malaysian/Russian protestors that want to mobilize for no censorship but are constrained from expressing their ideas or fear of what some repercussions may be. After reading “Crime, Punishment, and Russia’s Original Social Network” we learn that Pavel Durov who founded Vkontakte had some hurdles throughout the development of the networking site. What makes the internet so interesting is that in this case he had first received a letter, then officials showed up to his residence, and there were road blocks that emerged. Because after Putin announced he was planning on running for prudent again the opposition groups began to organize over VK and because this threatened Putin’s party you can see how something so good can slowly deteriate as it did from Durov.

    It is almost unpredictable with what may happen for countries that are censored and non democratic, however I believe that with the internet there has been a huge burden placed on governments because if they act injustice there is a good chance that an image or report will be transferred through some social media that the internet offers. The internet is at its early stages and guys like Zuckerberg, Page, Brin are just the few big names in our own country I can only imagine there are other geniuses like these guys across the world that are slowly emerging. We can see some of the flaws that Liberation Technology has, but if you look at the big picture we are now in a world where everyone is getting closer to equal freedom.

      cyberoutpost responded:
      March 1, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Does others agree with Andrew’s point? the idea of the ‘big picture’ and the internet enabling freedom?

        Louie Freda said:
        March 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm

        Andrew, I think this is a fair point. I think it is very viable that the Internet is still in it’s infancy and will be used to liberate instead of oppress in the future. Do you think however it is possible however that for every Internet whiz that is working for good there will be a comparable whiz working to oppress for companies like FinFisher? I think so. I think because authoritarian regimes have strong commitments to censorship they are willing to pay for best oppression technology. And today, if you are willing to pay I think talent will come to you.
        I think authoritarian regimes who commit themselves to cyberspace have the capacity reverse the potential of liberation technology. Authoritarian regimes are already showing that they are capable of limiting the access to free Internet in countries like N. Korea, China, and Iran. I think liberation technology is misleading. Liberation technology allows citizens, who are for the most part already free, to enjoy greater amounts of freedom. But liberation technology generally fails to liberate people who are living under oppression because the forces against freedom are too strong.

        Zayn Thompson said:
        March 1, 2015 at 7:38 pm

        Yes, I do agree with your point that many communist or Autocratic countries such as China and Iran limit what the opposition can do and say. They put a great deal of effort to suppress these opposition groups, and as we have seen in the Putin regime in Russia, many of his top public critics have “disappeared,” so yes I also agree that fear does play a role in how far the protestors are willing to go. Like Andrew said, there are many steps, or “roadblocks,” governments can take in trying to subdue people like Durov, and will eventually win the battle.
        I also like Louie’s last point because the people who can speak freely on social media sites already probably have a good amount of Internet freedom, such as the US. But in countries where they need more freedom, it is hard to use technology as a means of liberations when the government is censoring and limiting the Internet.

        Max Johnson said:
        March 1, 2015 at 11:58 pm

        The internet enables freedom in an already free society but in countries like Russia and China where the internet is successfully monitored and censored, the internet becomes a medium for propaganda and selective information.

    Reed mckeod said:
    March 1, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I’m siding with Louie here. Yes, the internet is still in its early stages. And yes, there will always be new actors that expand the boundaries of internet communication. But I believe there will also be a equal if not greater forces attempting to monitor and censor the data. This can be seen in the authorative government we’ve read about. My main concern is related to the profit that can be made in censorship programs. Although countries such as China and Russia internally develop their censorship system, they also rely heavily on private contracts to fufill the monitoring. As these country’s internet users increase, there will be a greater demand for programmers to create these invasive programs.

      Kyle Swartz said:
      March 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      I also agree with Louie on this point. If a country wishes to counter anti-governmental cyber-activism, the availability of private companies that make software to censor or spy on whoever you wish is phenomenal. Programs such as WireShark are some of the lower-end DDOS-ing and key-logging programs while FinFisher is an upper-end all-in-one sort of program that can take anything from passwords to offering remote-control of the users computer. These programs make it beyond easy for almost anyone to spy on somebody. WireShark for instance works by sending a file (or message) over a communications program like Skype, AIM, or Messenger and once the file or message is read or opened, the hacker is sent the user’s IP address which allows him to DDOS or send key logging software or whatever he chooses. It’s dangerous because a hacker could easily disguise himself as one of your contacts on social media and send you a file named: CutePuppyPictures.exe and when you click on the file to open it, it’s not a bunch of pictures of cute puppies but rather a key-logger that can steal your passwords. The worst part about all of this is the argument that these programs are available to those willing to pay for them. The fact is that only a select few upper-end programs are still kept secure enough that you have to pay for them. WireShark for instance has been free and easy to use for years already and it is continuously updated to get around security updates on different programs. The profit made off of these censorship and spying tools is greatest right when the tool/program is first developed or if it has been kept from being stolen (which is much harder than it sounds). Also, new security comes out all the time to compensate for these things so profits don’t last very long at all for these programs which is why many of them are free online.

        jsroot11 said:
        March 1, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Loui brings up a very interesting and important point, countries with freedom, enjoy the spoils of freedom through the internet, while countries with limited freedom are oppressed from access to the internet. The internet certainly enables freedom, having access to social media, and the web allows people to have separate source of freedom. The article about Russia and their social media network, i believe, plays into part here. The founder of the media site was threatened and harrassed by the government, although he has the right to run the site. This brings into question, what is freedom on the internet? What defines having freedom on the internet?

      Max Johnson said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      Reed, would you agree with what Diamond says in his article that western countries should ban the export of surveillance technologies? I’m not entirely convinced that this would eradicate or even help solve the issue of the market programmers and companies who design such programs. As you mentioned before, authoritarian government have the ability to internally develop their own censorship system so why would sanctioning the private market eliminate these technologies?

        Nick Ford said:
        March 2, 2015 at 12:11 am

        Max, you bring up a strong point and question for Reed about the elimination of exportation of surveillance technologies. But at the same time I believe there is a difference between corrupt and exploitive governance/surveillance verse what surveillance technologies were originally created for. Max, if surveillance technologies were eliminated from the market, do you think the issue of cyber security would become an greater issue that could led to cyber chaos?

    jsroot11 said:
    March 1, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    In one of my previous posts, i ask about the question of what is freedom on the internet? Based off the Russian article, I am curious what other people think what grants freedom on the internet?

      Max Johnson said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      Good question Root. Internet freedom is an ambiguous term that is tough to define but I think people should have the right to protest, communicate, and expressly themselves freely on the Internet as long as it does not threaten any individual or suggest any type of criminal action might take place in the future.

      Mike Gellman said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:46 pm

      I feel like for the most part freedom on the internet is very similar to freedom in “real life”. The freedom of speech that you see in the constitution is essentially the same whether it is used in a protest or on the internet. What is different about the internet is the freedom to remain anonymous. The internet allows people to post ideas and have discussions without being judged for things like social status and race. Along with the standard freedom from persecution for speaking ones mind; this ability to retain one’s anonymity must be present for the internet to be considered free.

    Michael Edson said:
    March 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I believe that Liberation Technology is the most important change for the media industry and government security. News stories are coming instantly with the help of ICTs. Common people are making the life of reporters easier because they will give a better understand of current situation with the upload of videos. It is interesting to hear that the usage of ICTs “empower[s] those who wish to become political and to challenge authoritarian rule” (Diamond 71). This reminds me of the video we had to watch earlier this semester about the five star movement. How a comedian with the use of social media created a political movement in Italy. While that is the power of what social media sites can do, we still have to be careful about what governments can do to these media sites. I dislike how governments can force shutdown of internet websites. This the web is gives humans the ability to share products, opinion, events, and etc. While some governments might not like the view of communist party websites. People who believe that communism is the best way to live should be allowed to express their opinion. While the governments might think these pages are a threat to the state. Taking down the websites would violate the first amendment. There is some times where if websites are advocating for violence then I believe that a government is allowed to take down a website or blackmail the group. Liberation Technology gives people the ability to rally as a community to help change views in society. This form of communication makes it easier for governments to propose, and hopefully establish new policies. Liberation Technology will be the most important topic in the next 15 years.

      Mike Gellman said:
      March 1, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      Mike I really like your closing statement the liberation technology will be the most important topic in the next 15 years. I share the same opinion that the battle over cyber space will by incredibly important in the upcoming decades. I am interested to know whether you think the internet will end up being a tool for good or evil in the future?

        Michael Edson said:
        March 1, 2015 at 10:40 pm

        I believe that the internet will be used for both but mainly for good. I see that there will be more advancements in technology to create a more secure web. As in our video chat we had two weeks ago with Josh Levy about net neutrality will we be able to create laws to allow privacy for citizens. The internet is the largest resource in the world and we need to use this source to use its full potential. I see companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft using data from the web to help people rather than destroy because if companies or governments are going to use the internet for evil then people will stop using the internet for protection reasons. The internet will help create new technologies to help human life be efficient.

    Cam Hickey said:
    March 1, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Larry Diamond’s article on Liberation Technology showed us how the cyber world can be a place for public outcry over domestic and foreign issues, as well as a sphere where a countries government can censor and control what is being posted. Liberation Technology is our generation’s means to peaceful protest, where we can form a debate to challenge what we believe to not be just. The articles we read today showed us how across the globe, individuals are using the technology at their disposal to create a voice that can be broadcasted all over the world. A prime example of this would be the protest caused by the death of Sun Zhigang, who was murdered by police officials while in custody. This event angered thousands of Chinese citizens to take to the Internet and protest police brutality and corruption throughout China. The result to this peaceful protest was the first change to national regulation in China’s history and one of the first that was caused with the use of Liberation Technology.
    Although while the use of the internet can spark debates and challenge the rule of law, it does come with a price and we must realize that the use of Liberation Technology is a two way street. The Russian social media site VKontakte created by Pavel Durov, was a site where Russian citizens could voice opinions and question their somewhat authoritative government. Although they were only poking the bear, so to speak, and the bear answered. Within a couple of years, Durov lost control of the site, and it soon fell into the hands of Kremlin sympathizers. They manipulated the site to not be a forum for public concerns but rather a social media site in favor of the Russian government. Now you find post praising the Kremlin and others criticizing homosexuals. While Larry Diamond shows that Liberation Technology can be a platform where there can be meaningful protests to change policies, Russia only shows that we must be mindful of how Liberation Technology can also become Oppression Technology as well.

      Michael Edson said:
      March 1, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      You see as if the liberation technology can back fire on citizens? You can look at it as governments being the bigger dog on the internet controlling what people can and can not say but you can also look at liberation technology as new invention to policies. In Diamond’s article, he says talks about all the social media that can be used to help start movements and groups. Facebook started making virtual social groups. The 5 Star Movement started on line. While governments can attack citizens for advocating non-governmental opinion, if more and more stores can come out like Pavel Durov. Less and less people are going to trust a governmental party and will switch views. Liberation technology is going to help change governments from being exclusive to more of a people’s government.

      Ibrahim Khan said:
      March 1, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      Cam I agree and like how you have described liberation technology as a “two way street” and potentially an “Oppression Technology”. The power of internet worries me at times i.e. it gives an easy opening for evil in the society to be accessible to anyone.

    Nick Ford said:
    March 1, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    In Liberation Technology, Larry Diamond defines “liberation technology” as any form of information and communication technology that is used “to empower individuals, facilitate independent communication and mobilization, and strengthen an emergent civil society.” These information and communication technologies give the general public the power to challenge morally corrupt governing institutions, acting as a tool for global social justice. Diamond uses the case of 27-year-old Sun Zhigang. In March 2003, Zhigang died in the medical clinic of a Chinese detention center after being brutally beaten to death by authorities while in custody. When the report appeared publically in newspapers and on websites, it created a massive social outrage. Due to information made available by liberation technologies, the outpouring of the general public’s opinion had the power to force the Communist Chinese state to change an unjust national regulation.

    When looking at liberation technologies as a tool, it triggers the issue of a paradoxical double-edged sword. There are many promising and beneficial aspects to the power in which new media technologies have given our society, in the sense that communication and the availability of information and news is made very accessible to us. With the advancement in technology, social networking has become more portable than ever, as we are constantly carrying social media with us everywhere on our phone and devices. Social media allows us to remain connected with people from all over, by sending messages and pictures through Facebook and Twitter. Not only do social platforms allow us to maintain personal relationships through forms of private communication, but we also are able to publically share information. Due to the “Internet’s decentralized character and ability to reach large numbers of people very quickly,” ICTs promotes two-way communication that were not possible with the radio or television. Liberation technologies “enables citizens to report news, expose wrongdoing, express opinions, mobilize protest, monitor elections, scrutinize government, deepen participation, and expand horizons of freedom.”

    Though, when considering the other perspective, “authoritarian states such as China, Belarus, and Iran have acquired and shared impressive technical capabilities to filter and control the Internet, and to identify and punish dissenters.” Liberation technologies have empowered authoritarian states and now have evolved into a competition of cyber governance. Diamond explains, “political organization and strategy and deep-rooted normative, social, and economic forces will determine who ‘wins’ the race.”

    Diamond concluded that liberation technologies are “merely a tool, open to both noble and nefarious purposes.” When comparing liberation technologies with radios and televisions, he explained that, just like radios and televisions can be used as sources of information and can also be exploited by totalitarian regimes for total state control, authoritarian states could do the same with ICTs. Though at the same time, citizens can use these tools as a way to mobilize against authoritarian rule.

    Max Johnson said:
    March 1, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Larry Diamond’s article vindicates liberating the Internet as an inherent freedom that everyone in the world should share because the cyber world acts as a medium for communication, expression, and protest. I agree that people should be able to express their discontent with their governments or organize rallies over the Internet and should not be punished for peacefully reporting their feelings. Doing so restricts natural rights of expression and fundamentally contradicts any kind of western, liberal ideals regarding human rights. I think most people agree that governments who restrict access and punish their citizens for attempting to circumvent or rebel against censorship is unjust. Everyone has the right to access knowledge. Diamond calls for western countries to stand up against these forms of censorship by banning exports of advanced filtering and surveillance technologies but I do not necessarily agree that this would help alleviate the problem. The root of the problem is not with the production of this kind of technology. If you ban the exports it will only dissolve a market for this service internally and would divert the market to foreign makers. What I think Western government should do is encourage the development of ubiquitous Internet access via satellite or other progressive methods like giants balloons that Elon Musk has been contemplating. This would diminish government censorship, but this would not address the problem of punishment. This is a complex issue that needs to remain in the forefront of all discussion regarding the Internet and how it is govern.

    Nick Ford said:
    March 1, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    After reading Liberation Technology, it made me think about a course I took last semester called, “New Media, Conflict, and Control,” as the two topics were very similar. Throughout the course, we closely explored the increasing role of information and communication technologies of modern society. These tools have become powerful facilitators in conflict and democracy as well as the paradoxical potential for control and surveillance. Information and communication technologies have become to function as “weapons of the strong,” in which the government and corporate institutions have effectively employed control over the participatory populous through surveillance. Though, as issues dealing with the protesting are globally mediated, these tools also have an integral involvement as “weapons of the weak” in democracy and social mobilization.

    Due to the advancements made with liberation technologies, the participatory culture that has become established has been corrupted for exploitative purposes to benefit major media corporations and the government. Information and communication technologies have evolved as functional “weapons of the strong,” as these governing powers attained power and control through advanced surveillance. As a result, the freedom and privacy of the participatory population of these information and communication technologies has been compromised, as the participants have become dis-empowered. Major social media platforms, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are the front-runners of this self-promotion and benefit, as information and communication technologies are the main fuel source for their dominant control and corruption. As one of the largest computer service companies, like other social media platforms, Google has gained its dominant status in the digital media system because of the “weak.” With that being said, “Google engages in the economic surveillance of user data and user activities, thereby commodifing and infinitely exploiting users, and selling users and their data as Internet prosumer commodity to advertising clients in order to generate money profit.”

    On the other hand, liberation technologies have exposed our society to communication, networking, democratic participation, and the ability to be catalytic in social mobilization like never before. As social media platforms are more portable and accessible to modern culture, the ability to communicate and publically share information has enhanced the power of the benefits of ICTs. Once functional as “weapons of the strong” for the dis-empowerment of democratic participation, ICTs have reversed roles as an effective leveraging method to regain power. This counter-power of new media has fueled the participatory culture as “weapons of the weak.” As injustice and the exploitation through surveillance publically surfaced, information and communication technologies promoted the orchestration of protest. Watchdog corporations, like WikiLeaks and Anonymous, have countered the government and corporate institutions through “good governance.” These institutions successfully mediate the corruption of the “strong” through the publication of private information and news leaks, exposing the exploitation of surveillance and promoting mobilization.

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