MICHAEL MORAN: Well, welcome everybody. Very happy to see this turnout.
Welcome to CFR's look at digital openness around the world. This is very much a cutting-edge issue. I'm happy to say that we got a little news peg out of this. The State Department budget that the president just revealed includes $15 million for something, a project to help people get around filtering which is exactly what we're going to talk about tonight. So we scheduled this meeting before that came out, I'm proud to say.
I'd like to give you a couple of reminders that are standard here at the council. This is an on-the-record meeting, so your comments are open to reporting. I'd like to remind you that if you've got cell phones, obviously you want to turn those off. Turn them on buzz at the very least. And that there will be a Q&A session at the end.
And I should introduce myself. I'm Mike Moran. I'm the executive editor of CFR.org. This meeting has something of a dual purpose in that while we will dig into the intellectual content and subject of the evening in a moment, one of the things we're here for is to just celebrate what CFR.org did last year. And this is really for my staff. I hope you'll indulge me for a moment.
I have a small staff of very hard-working, dedicated news analysts who have really done wonders along with a Web team who help us keep this thing online. It's not always an easy job. And we've managed to do some innovation. In fact, we won an award for innovation, a national journalism award, last year, which has, I think, caused real gasps among my staff and among the rest of the journalism world. A lot of people were saying, who is CFR.org? Well, I hope they know now.
And I want to take this moment to just give you a quick look at what we do, how we do it and, as a kind of tribute to my staff, just show you a few things we're working on right now.
CFR, as you can see, you know, it's obviously -- you know what CFR is, the institution. CFR.org has kind of taken the position that there is something of a vacuum between the incremental coverage of the news media on foreign affairs and the deep and sometimes inaccessible coverage that's provided by research institutes and think tanks. The intelligent laymen might have a hard time jumping into the soap opera of coverage on the Iran nuclear issue, for instance, and would have a really hard time jumping into a think tank's analysis of what's going on. We hope that we are creating some kind of a bridge between those two things. And I think that it is a missing link.
CFR this year its main initiative really is the Campaign 2008 site. What we're trying to do, again, is to look at this campaign through a very specific filter. I wouldn't call it foreign policy. I think I'd call it international issues. This is a campaign that features an awful lot of stuff that crosses the foreign policy line. The immigration debate's a good example, trade, globalization, you know, national security issues with regard to whether foreign ownership of major American corporate jewels is a wonderful thing. I mean, there's all sorts of issues that are floating around out there that are not traditional foreign policy issues.
One of the things we've tried to do is break this down further than anybody else in these issue trackers that my staff assiduously updates, which have been noticed all over the blogosphere I'm happy to say. For instance, if you want to know what candidates are saying about Africa policy, it would be awfully hard to find anywhere except where we are. There's a real kind of level of granularity that CFR really should bring to these things. This is, after all, the foremost think tank in the United States, as far as I'm concerned, on foreign policy. We're the ones who should track this. And we're not making judgments. We're just saying here's what Mike Gravel says about Africa. (Laughter.) Believe it or not, he has said the word.
In any case, another thing we're doing -- (laughter) -- thank you. Boy, there's a bonus in the making there. (Laughter.)
Another thing we're doing that has somewhat broken the mold of what think tanks generally do and what CFR.org may have even thought what I was going to do when I got here was something called crisis guides. It struck me in 20 years of covering foreign policy that, again, crises got covered, people parachuted in, you got these primers that printed in newspaper, then they disappeared. They weren't there, they weren't living things that could be consulted by people who suddenly wondered, after hearing the word Darfur at a cocktail party, what is that?
So what we've tried to do is create something that has layers of information which allows people to examine this issue to the extent to which they can tolerate it. You can spend probably 45 minutes to an hour reading this guide, or you could spend 15 minutes watching the opening presentation and clicking around a bit. And at least you'd come away with a sense that I see, I see what's going on there.
We have done two of them so far. One was on the Korean Peninsula, the other on Darfur, as I mentioned. And currently, we're working on one which we hope we'll launch not too long from now on the Middle East crisis. Having built up some good will here in the first two, I thought it was time to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and get it behind me. So we are working our way through that right now. It's obviously the most difficult issue to tackle, and that is what we're working on now.
We have a little preview of it, I believe, that you're going to see -- maybe. Here it is.
So as all of you know, this stuff does not come cheap. And as a result, we've rethought what it means to have a website in this institution. And with David Kellogg's leadership, we've reached out to a larger community to help support this kind of work. If you look at the top right on the site, you'll see we've been the beneficiaries of some generous gifts from Morgan Stanley. They are now a partial sponsor of the site. Morgan Stanley sponsors two specific things on the site -- the daily analysis briefs which are kind of blog-like edits of the state of the debate on any topic that you see on the front page of CFR.org (over time ?), and the backgrounders which are kind of service journalism's version of a primer on any of these very complicated issues. So obviously, we are not at all against the idea of one of you standing up and saying, I would love to support CFR.org and sponsor the website.
What we're trying to do, though, is really, as I said, fill a vacuum that I think exists in the American political discourse on foreign policy. And the traffic and the uptake that we've had from editorial partners suggests that this is actually a demand that exists. Our traffic has roughly quadrupled since 2005.
More importantly, I think, we decided on a strategy, because we're a nonprofit, of distributing some of our materially basically free of charge to major editorial partners. Newsweek is one of them. The New York Times is another. Washington Post is another. And there are days when a single version of our stories on these sites cumulatively, basically get more hits than we get in a month on CFR.org. To us, that's a fulfillment of a mission. That is an enormous win for us, because these are people who would never have come organically to CFR.org. So hopefully we're exposing this to many, many more people.
In any case, all of this would not be possible without Richard Haas' support and his vision of seeing CFR.org as a place where you shouldn't just come to see what's going on at the Council on Foreign Relations. You should come to see what's going on in foreign relations generally. And I hope that has been a good experience for those of you who are regular visitors. I hope those of you who aren't will become regular visitors.
And with that, I would like to invite my two guests up and segue into the main course in this meal. Thank you.
Well, enough about me. Again, welcome.
John Palfrey is a clinical professor and an executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University Law School. And I first came across the work of the Berkman Center through a site called Global -- oh, I'm sorry -- Global Voices, which to some extent -- it was a very revolutionary site. It aggregates blogs from around the world. These are not Americans angry about something that Ron Paul or George Bush or Hillary Clinton said. These are people all over the world whose voice would not necessarily be exposed to a large audience, because they are from Fiji or they're from Tunisia or they're from France. And they're blogging in English -- Iranians. It's astounding what you can read on here.
John, though, currently his project is just exactly to the point of this meeting -- is to essentially -- is with regard to the question of digital openness, he has a project that is completely out among it's -- sorry. It's alone out there in the ability to rate the degree to which governments around the world are filtering the Internet.
Currently, as John will tell you, there's really a handful who are doing this in a really broad way, but the implications are very large and it's becoming a kind of a new metric in terms of what the -- the kind of reports that Freedom House has traditionally put out about openness, so that State Departments Human Rights Report -- this is a new way of looking at whether a society is open or not. And I hope this discussion will kind of awaken you to the new frontier that is here in terms of freedom -- freedom of speech in particular.
Jeff Jarvis, of course, is the author of "BuzzMachine" one of the most -- contentious, is that the right word?
JEFF JARVIS: Contentious blog -- (lather ?) or filled. (Laughter.)
MORAN: Jeff, interestingly, just got back from Dabos (sp) -- second year in a row, is that right? And he's also the director of the new media program at CUNY's new Graduate School of Journalism. Jeff and I have crossed paths a couple of times in my career and he has consulted for a wide range of journalism and technology companies over the years and has followed this issue. And I hope you will enjoy this discussion.
I wanted to kick it off with what I think is the kind of core question here.
People generally understand the concept of censorship. It's a concept that goes way back. Certainly no one was thinking about the Internet when they first censored something, but there's a -- the word filtering might kind of confuse people.
And so John, I thought it might be an interesting process to start with for you to describe the difference between filtering and censorship.
JOHN PALFREY: Sure, thank you.
And my congratulations on the nice -- (inaudible) -- award and all the rest -- (inaudible) -- is fabulous. And thank you all for the chance to talk about this tonight.
So the basic idea is that censorship is a really broad set of things that means, you know -- as we know -- blocking the right to say something. And I think the introduction of Internet filtering is just a subset of it. It's a form of censorship that works not that well, but well enough, in a sense, in the digital age.
So the story here is that, roughly speaking, five or six years ago some colleagues of mine at the Harvard Law School started making long distance phone calls to China to try to figure out whether or not, if you were in China, you were able to access to the same Internet -- the same worldwide web as everybody else in the world. It turned out that the answer was no. That the Chinese had, at that point -- this is 2001, 2002 -- already started to create the Great Firewall of China -- a way in which you can block access to certain websites. It turned out at the same time, Saudi Arabia was doing, roughly speaking, the same thing.
And over the five or six years since then, we've studied a trend that suggests now that more than three dozen states around the world that the map was showing, or was showing before, are filtering Internet content. And what that means is to use one of a bunch of technologies, mandated by the state, to stop somebody from accessing specific websites. So again, what might be in China, you can't get to the Human Rights Watch site, for instance.
Another example would be if you were in the United Arab Emirates and you want to use the (Skype ?) system to make free telephone calls, you can't get to that system. If you go to Uzbekistan and you try to get online to a site that has to do with a dissident group, you certainly can't get to it and on and on. So that we now have a situation in which several dozen places in the world are using technical means to filter out what you can and can't see on the Internet. And as a result, we have the Saudi wide web, the Uzbek wide web, the Thai wide web, but not truly the worldwide web.
MORAN: So obviously, these are blunt tools and there are technological solutions to anything -- I hope.
So how do people get around these, because they do get around them. And I wonder if you can just briefly describe how a dissident -- or just an average person who's interested in expressing themselves in a country like China or Myanmar or Iran -- can get around this kind of filter?
PALFREY: So there are -- (inaudible) -- they don't do a great job at blocking access to everything that the censor wants to block. We think of it more or less as an 80/20 rules, which is to say the mass sort of population generally gets stopped by these blocks, but 20 percent who actually want to get around it can do it.
So if you think about it from the perspective of somebody trying to view something -- so pretend that you're in Beijing and what you'd like to see is some information about Tibet that's otherwise blocked, by and large, people use a system of proxy servers. You pretend your someplace else. You know where that is. You go and get it and you bring down the information as though you were elsewhere. That's one way to think about it.
Another would be to put it in the context of the monks in Myanmar or Burma. So at the moment at which the state -- the military regime decided that they really didn't want the world to see what the bloggers and video people were going to put up on the Internet, they decided to shut down the whole Internet as well as they could.
So how then -- this is the other way around -- how do you get a video image of, you know, monks being taken out by the military -- out of an environment like Myanmar? That's another thing. And there are lots of ways -- actually, very simply, low-tech ways -- often through the cell phone network and other ways that you'd be able to get it out. So it depends exactly on what you're trying to do. But almost anything you want to do, you can get around in terms of Internet censorship. And the money that the State Department has allocated -- (inaudible) -- further fuel to that.
MORAN: Jeff, we just heard the Myanmar example. In September, obviously, there was an uprising to some extent. And then, the plug was pulled, basically, on the Internet.
In China regularly -- particularly interior China -- stories which would have take months, and possibly never been heard of in the Western press, are heard of rather quickly now, because of either text messages or a network of Skype or other technologies expose them. How has this changed the way things work and to what extent is the blogosphere behind this?
And if you could give me a sense of whether -- without overstating the, you know, obviously there's other technologies involved. But where is the -- what is the change that has allowed this information to get out?
JARVIS: I think it's a few things. I think it's obviously the technology. The technological means -- anyone can publish and anyone can broadcast to the world. But I think it's cultural changes too.
I've learned a lot as an old journalist about some new ethics in this world that we're in. And a key ethic to the blog world is the ethic of transparency. That we firmly believe that more transparent is better. And I have some blog triumphalists -- and I can be accused of being a triumphalist -- who hope that that can bubble up, that that becomes an expectation of society now, because it's how it works best.
The other thing about this is is these incredible linkages that can be created now that could never be created before human-to-human. When I started blogging after September 11th, I blogged about that in my little world here. And then suddenly, I tried to make use of my really, really horrible high school German and read blogs in Germany. And this magical thing happened immediately where I would find something interesting and I would translate it -- I hoped -- and write about it and then linked. And they would see, oh, this guy in America is linked to it. And there's a bridge created.
And I had the privilege of meeting, before Global Voices was created, where this -- the phrase of "bridge blogging" was used a lot -- that there's a human-to-human relationship that's now possible on the Internet around all boundaries and governments and institutions. And I've made friends in Iran and Iraq and Saudi Arabia and around the world -- thanks to the blogging thing. So I think that's a structural change. It didn't -- you know, life still goes on, work goes on and we know that the Internet is global and all of that stuff, but I think that this creates new linkages that are impossible to cut off.
So it's more than just publishing. I would argue that the Internet is not a medium of content. The Internet is a medium of connections and relationships. And so it enables these human relationships to happen across, which can mean that you can find out what's going on. You know, the monk in Burma can send the video to a friend in New York, who can send it to a news organization. That linkage didn't exist before -- who would I send it to? But it also means that there's a potential for an understanding there. It wasn't possible. I'm not a member of this august organization. I'm not very good at this as a topic, but I met people in other lands thanks to this blogging thing.
So to me what best hits me is this cultural change of an openness of the world and different definitions of openness.
MORAN: So let's drill down on this a bit country by country. We've got, obviously, China is the country on everyone's mind. The Chinese -- I think you briefly showed the Chinese, as is their want, have a cute little figure who represent the Internet police.
Take a look at this: There's one female and there's one male. These are the people who encourage you to be good on the Internet. There are 50 people in jail, because they weren't good on the Internet -- at least according to Reporters without Borders.
What would you have to do in China, because China has embraced the Internet in a big way -- 210 million according to Morgan Stanley -- Chinese are on the Internet now, which is getting up to be almost on par with the United States, and they're projected that they will pass us soon. What would you have to do in China to get thrown in jail -- other than, you know, obviously be involved in murder conspiracy. I mean, is this about freedom of speech?
PALFREY: It's certainly about freedom of speech. The person who knows the answer to this best is Stephanie Wang, who's in the audience, is one of the researchers on this project as a legal scholar, and someone who looks at the Chinese law and how it applies in this setting. And one of the things she's written about is the extent to which the laws in China are very broad, right? And particularly in this context, there are roughly speaking a dozen kinds of things that you could do that would break the law on the Internet -- that doesn't kind of sort of ban forms of speech.
The most famous person who's in jail is a journalist names Shi Tao, who was -- and this ties into another related topic -- who was using the Internet as a means of connecting to other people who were doing dissident activities of various sorts. And he was a journalist based in Hong Kong. His Internet traffic was captured at a certain point and he was put in jail.
The problem that the Shi Tao case brings up is first of all, it's relatively vague in terms of what he actually did that got him put in jail. But the other is the way in which he ended up getting caught was that he was using a Yahoo! mail account. And what happened effectively was the Chinese state police came and knocked on the door of the Yahoo! people in China and say, turn over this person to us. So one of the big problems here is the state can't do it alone. As broad as these laws are, as many people who are on the Internet, they need the activities of the private intermediaries -- often they're American companies who are doing this work. So you could get put in jail for a lot of different things, but very often the people who are helping put the handcuffs, unfortunately, are people based elsewhere.
MORAN: Well, it's a well-known story -- the Google, Yahoo!, Cisco, Microsoft dilemma of access to the Chinese market versus playing ball with the Chinese security police.
PALFREY: Mm-hmm. (In agreement.)
MORAN: You're involved at Harvard at the Berkman Center in attempting to devise a code of conduct for these companies. Can you describe a bit about the issues involved, the dilemmas and how they're being handled by the companies?
This is a contentious issue, obviously, which is you're based on California. You're executives are all people who came out of graduate schools, you believed in freedom and the Internet and so forth, and all of a sudden, you're going into a market where censorship and surveillance are the norm. They are the local law and you're supposed to do it.
So one of the big questions is, how in fact do you decide to act when you're in this environment? Do you just obey the law? And everyone of these 200 countries -- call them, you know, several dozen of those that have this kind of regime -- or do you stand up for human rights or free expression or civil liberties? However you want to go at it.
So a number of these companies -- not all the ones you mentioned -- but Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google -- (inaudible) -- and Vodafone, to be specific, have entered into a process of trying to come up with a set of principles for how to ethically when they're operating in markets in like China and Vietnam and so forth. And it is in the second year of trying to negotiate these principles.
It's on the model of the Sullivan Principles, in essence, for cyberspace, if you compare to it the South African regime. There are NGOs at the table. It's being run by the people from Business for Social Responsibility and Center for Democracy and Technology. So it's NGOs and academics and others at the table. And it is, I think, the most promising way to figure out an ethical mode for dealing with this problem in a globalized way.
MORAN: Can you -- could you foresee the day when the Chinese authorities cross a line which would actually unite these companies in some kind of walk-out -- we'll all leave if you do this?
PALFREY: That's a tricky question. (Laughter.) And, obviously, I can't speak for the companies by any means. But are we going in that way? Is that --
MORAN: Are there lines that they all clearly believe that can't be crossed?
PALFREY: I sure hope so. You know, as an American, as an investor in some of these companies, I absolutely hope that there is some point at which you would say, okay, we're not actually going to have operations in -- fill in the blank -- North Korea, Cuba, Burma, whatever the place; it just has such a horrible set of human rights protections, or non-protections, that you're not going to be in a position where you're having personally-identifiable data about your users that you might have to turn over to the police. So I hope that there is such a line, you know, over which some of these companies might not cross.
Now China is complicated, right. This is the world's fastest growing economy, certainly in technical terms, and it's going to be hard, I think, for many of these companies to pull out of, you know, this place where their shareholders presumably are telling them, it's your fiduciary duty to be in there and avail yourself of this market.
MORAN: And, Jeff, you see the kind of lump in debate on this constantly playing out on the -- in the blogosphere and the, you know, the secondary commentary on what happens. I mean, what is the general right now? Where do people -- to the extent that you can tell, where do people believe these companies should be? Is it a -- is it an all-or-nothing thing? Is it --
JARVIS: Well, it's hard to say that the blogosphere is a monolith and has any one thought. In fact, it has every possible thought.
PALFREY: The same for China itself, right?
JARVIS: And I think it's a bigger -- personally, I think it's a bigger issue. I think that there is a -- there's a question of the morality of a new economy here, and our role in it -- whether it's Matell toys, or dog food, or pollution, or the internet. And it -- to me, it all starts to fit under the same umbrella.
And I think that there's, there's also a media question of this presumed -- John is exactly right, it's an economic question of the "Oh, we have to be there" -- well, there's a lot of places in the world you can be that are growing. But this idea that China constantly gets this bye because it's this huge growing market, is what's -- we're not giving these companies cover with their shareholders. We're not -- there's been not really a movement yet to say, how dare you?
There has, to an extent, to Yahoo. And Jerry Yang has faced the ire of people in public places.
PALFREY: And the Congress.
JARVIS: And Congress, exactly. And that's a good thing, but that's the first we've seen it -- and it happened, what, two years after the arrest before Congress finally did it.
Google does differently-filtered searches in China. That's a shameful thing for a company that wants to organize the world's knowledge. Cisco is well-known. And there are media companies that have media outlets there, because they want to make money in China, the same time that their correspondents are being thrown in jail for bringing information out.
So we're not acting in a terribly moral way in relation to China. You know, it's different from other countries, but I think -- I think the problem is that, again, we haven't given any cover. So what we need to do is probably organize more protests along this line so that we put the pressure on to give cover, to say, gee, I wish I could go along with the local law, but I'll get killed here, here, here and here and here. But there's no -- I don't see much of a popular uprising in that way.
MORAN: Among the people who would fill the vacuum, should -- let's say American technology companies did act that way -- wouldn't you just see British and French and German and Malaysian and Japanese companies fill the gap? I mean, isn't that -- isn't that always the argument that -- we're not doing anything that China couldn't replace in the wink of an eye, we're merely -- you know, the argument tends to be, we are here, therefore, there is a positive influence.
PALFREY: Let me channel the best argument that Google has, in my view, for what it's doing in China. So on January 25th, 2006 Google brought google.cn into China, right. And they had always had China -- you know, Google was accessible in China, but you had to go through the firewall, so it was very slow.
And their argument basically is: Our goal is to provide access to more knowledge than a Chinese person otherwise could have access to. We're not bringing in blogger; we're not bringing in gmail -- these are their blogging services and their e-mail services. So we're not going to get personally-identifiable information about you that we could turn over. And what we're going to do is just ensure that we're always better than BIDU, the leading search engine there, at providing more access to more information. And, frankly, when we have some search result omitted, we're going to tell you, in Mandarin, that, in fact, there's been a search result omitted on this page. So at least you'll know that the censorship is happening. And we -- as, sort of, an American company, with these sensibilities in favor of freedom -- are going to do a better job.
So that's, I think, the kind of strong arguments in favor of some of these companies being there. You know, would the gap be filled by the U.K. version? You know, could be.
MORAN: Well, let's -- I want to, I want to move again to your site, and look at some anomalies, or things that --
PALFREY: I am.
MORAN: -- struck me as anomalies. One of the interesting things about this site, the OpenNet Initiative, is that you can find -- you've interestingly parsed it into political-social --
PALFREY: You see up here, these are the different overlays of issues -- what's getting blogged.
MORAN: The social one -- click on the social one. That's an interesting one. Now, many of you will have noticed, being geographically aware, that the United States lights up. What is it about the United States that colors it violet in this case?
PALFREY: So the maps here are showing state-mandated internet filtering of some sort or another. So, it's not like in corporate networks -- of course, lots of those are filtered, and so forth.
The argument here with the United States is that, in schools and libraries, we do filter the internet, right. So there are -- there have been attempts to do this more broadly throughout the United States. But we don't want our kids seeing pornography -- certainly not child pornography, but not garden variety pornography, so there is legislation that requires this -- and uses funding and other mechanisms to filter some content in the United States.
One of the interesting points about filtering, I think, is pretty much everybody in the world detests child pornography, right? So if you could have a regime in which child pornography were locked from the internet, from any place, would you accept that regime? Would you -- would you take that on?
Another hard case, in this instance, is Germany and France, which filter Nazi paraphernalia, right. So, they're against the -- against the law to sell on an auction, or to publish something about Stormfront, for instance. So if you search on Google, for instance, for the word "Stormfront" in Germany, you won't get the hate sites, whereas you will get those in the United States.
So there are many instances in which Western democracies decide that they want to do some form of filtering, either in a certain time or place, or on certain issues that are important. And I think that makes the issue a little bit harder than when you're talking about, you know, a clear human rights issue in Myanmar.
MORAN: And, again, another, you know, at another level, there are cultural sensitivities that -- for instance, Saudi Arabia, obviously --
PALFREY: Right. The Saudis are a special and interesting case, actually.
MORAN: Absolutely. Well, could you discuss them for a second?
PALFREY: Sure. So I think Saudi is one of the most notable, because what the Saudi Arabians did was they basically said, look, we're not going to introduce the internet at all unless we know we can keep pornography away from our people entirely.
MORAN: And that -- that is defined very broadly. This is -- (inaudible) --
PALFREY: Very, very broadly. And, of course, they admitted that they couldn't it 100 percent, but of pornography it's, it's pretty extensive what they ended up blocking. So they basically said, we're going to have one pipe of the internet in -- so you can have either a very decentralized, or a very centralized system, theirs is centralized.
They have a site that's called the ISU, and it's based at a university, but basically it's the people running whether things can go in or out of this pipe. And they turned on the internet, in essence, to the people of Saudi Arabia, at a point at which they felt that they could filter it effectively.
They've run surveys, and they claim that the majority of Saudis like to have a filtered internet. They have the most transparent regime in the -- yeah, right, query whether that's real, but they're the most transparent regime. So if you go to the ISU site you can say, I think you should block this site; or you could say, I think this site should be unblocked. Query as to how somebody would know the site was -- (inaudible, laughter), forget that for a second, but there is a transparent process. We've tried to submit sites to be taken off. They don't -- they don't honor our requests.
But I think Saudi is on a different, you know, has a -- there are a series of different ethical issues in Saudi. One thing that they did part way through -- after saying mostly it's about porn, they didn't like some things being said on the blogs so they blocked entire blog services, right. So they take all of blogger down, or other local services.
And then, very often those come back up because they realize you can't really precisely block any one site, you really end up blocking, you know, broad services, generally.
JARVIS: There's -- pardon, there is a consumer -- a popular demand for them. You know, I've talked to (Bushan ?), we said that if we lost Google, we'd get mad -- which is --
MORAN: Which leads me to the next question, which is this: Even for a place like Saudi Arabia -- I, for a couple of years, followed a Saudi blog on Global Voices, actually, called -- I think it was called "Saudi Blue Jeans Girl." Strangely enough, you would think she's interested in Brittney Spears, but she was very political and very open. And I was shocked that this existed (under us ?).
Now, I don't know whether she -- maybe she was a student in Egypt or something, but she was clearly taking about domestic politics in Saudi Arabia. Is there a safety valve aspect to allowing this -- similar to saying, in the Arab world, let the Arab street have its way? I mean, is this a -- in Saudi, do they think of this as, let them vent? Or, are they very -- or, do you get the sense that they're really concerned about this?
PALFREY: Well, I mean, again, it's hard to ascribe a tense -- a nation, right, in these ways. I think one of the real challenges here is to figure out why filtering is occurring in any given place. So, sometimes it's plain that a state doesn't want their people to see bad stuff from the infidels, right. They don't want it, sort of, brought in. Another way to think about it is that you don't want your people -- in the monk situation, to get word out to the rest of the world. So that's another reason to have the block.
One of the weird cases is Wikipedia. So, Wikipedia -- the on-line encyclopedia that anybody can edit, and so forth, this was blocked and unblocked in China three times in the course of about a year. So why was it blocked and unblocked? And I think part of it is to say sometimes you want to be able to control what's being said about China in the Chinese language. Sometimes you want to be able to, you know, promote your argument in these environments, but sometimes you don't like the edits that other people are making to that, right.
So you get all of these -- (audio break) --
JARVIS: (In progress) -- he believes put pressure on them, got him out of jail and eventually out of the country, and he's now in Belgium. There's another blogger named (Rusbah ?), who's now at City University of New York where I'm teaching. So, on the one hand, you're in great danger -- they can arrest you. But, on the other hand, they hold blog festivals. It's the only city in the world, in Tehran, that I know of that has a blog cafe. The vice president of Iran blogged -- and we could imagine Dick Cheney blogging -- (scattered laughter); the president of Iran now blogs, of a sort. The vice president brags about his daughters reading blogs.
They realize that it's a force. They want to have the good of it and not the bad of it, and can't quite figure out how to do that -- which is probably a good thing, with that paradox of this relationship. It's not as if it's just, as some of the media here would say, all blogs are bad, though we hear that less, it's that there's a recognition of a force here. They just wish they could control it.
PALFREY: I mean, just this week in Saudi we've seen the same basic pattern. There was a blog shut down in Saudi Arabia -- someone called for democracy and more open discourse in Saudi society. The person was arrested and the blog shut down. And in the old days, of course, that would have been the end of it.
These days, immediately a site went up on the Saudi internet commemorating this person. It hasn't gone away. That's the key. The key is that it didn't go away.
Myanmar, for instance, again, it would have been a flash in the pan on the international newswires, perhaps, in the 80s. And now, you know, it's -- we're quite aware that there are -- there's things going on there. And it keeps leaking out --
JARVIS: And once things are out, they're out. Once things are somewhere on the internet, they're -- when I was in Davos, Reuters handed 20 of us these Nokia phones with a little bit of software on them. And so I could go up to people and interview them. And it would go, with one click, right up to internet. And then when I got back I used new software, qik.com, QIK.com, where I can -- from this I can broadcast live. A real cell phone --
PALFREY: And you're not broadcasting now, right?
JARVIS: I'm not right now, no. (Laughter.) I can't get it to work right now, I have no WIFI here. That's the problem.
MORAN: I'm looking at the man who controls my budget right now. (Laughter.)
JARVIS: So broadcast lots. And once it's out, it's out. And once it's there, it's there. You can't control it anymore, the bird is out of the cage.
MORAN: Now, let's -- let's go, okay, let's go to the dangers of that. Let's go back to the dusty days of the Cold War. I worked at Radio Free Europe in 1990, when the Soviet Union was imploding. Radio Free Europe was set up in the, kind of, mold of what you'd imagine -- there were broadcast desks for each nationality.
And dissidents from places like Armenia, or Belarus, or wherever had come through the years and found their home in Munich, Germany and broadcast back to the Soviet Union in their own language. For years the only way to compile news out of most of these places was to read between the lines of TASS or, you know, very odd, you know, three-letter -- three-sentence dispatches from the Albanian Telegraphic Agency, or whatever.
Suddenly, in 1990, these dissidents could call their cousin in -- for instance, Nagorno Karabakh, which is a disputed place between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and say, what's going on there, cousin? And the cousin would get on the phone and say, the Armenians are massacring thousands of Azerbaijani. And this is a true story. You can start a war this way. I mean, this is not journalism. This is absolutely an open pipe.
So how -- where does that fit into this conversation? I mean, we look constantly at the benefits -- (laughter) --
JARVIS: We obviously developed some ground rules after that happened. But I think Global Voices is a very important tool in this because you can get multiple -- there are a lot of areas of the world where there are no outside journalists, and now you have new eyes there, right.
Yes, you could have this happen but you can also triangulate, there's also a view of their reliability. If they're not reliable, you don't curate them in anymore. You know, and I think there's a bigger issue here in reporting -- if I may, for one second -- the L.A. Times -- leaves behind -- I'm sure this is heresy in this room, getting rid of foreign correspondents is -- would be seen as an awful thing all around.
But, you know, for the LA Times or somebody covering Asia -- that notion of one person covering Asia, you know, is magnificently absurd. And they can turn out one story every three weeks or so. And if they took that same money and they had Global Voices -- paying people to really understand, who's reliable to read media, and blogs and stuff from all over, and translate it and explain it, and put it in commentary, and provide a rich daily summary of the news -- how much better that is.
So I think there's a kind of new argument in this world news where we do what we do best to link to the rest. And this notion of curating, that Global Voices has led, is very important. So in that is -- and John should talk about this -- is a notion of trust. And in any news now -- whether it's, it's the West Virginia mine disaster where we thought that more had survived when more died, because it was live TV -- this problem became a problem with 24-hour TV. Right there.
PALFREY: So, with all due respect -- due respect to the mainstream media, occasionally mistakes get made in that environment too, so I think one thing is to say, it's as compared to what? But I think -- and it's not to say there isn't some risk here, that you have, you know, the drudge of every place -- and sometimes drudge is right, and sometime drudge is wrong, and a lot of people see it, and damage is done. Plainly, that's so.
But I think if you think about the Global Voices model for a moment, I think it's not a bad one in terms of saying, there are some people who are in -- that we consider trusted intermediaries, and they point to others. And then there are communities around this that are rabid about getting it right. And when something is wrong in one of these communities, you see a lot of editing going on and a lot of fierce kind of flaming. It's not all good, but it is a mode of trying to get things right.
I think another example is the John Seigenthaler story, well known in the Wikipedia environment, where, you know, some rumors were placed on his site, his page on Wikipedia. And he found it some time later and was very upset by the effect on his character, which is exactly right. But the community did fix it at that point. So it's not as though it doesn't ever get fixed. There may be wrong in some interim period.
The other thing I would point to with Global Voices is the Lingua project, which is quite wild, which is when a story gets posted in English or some -- any given language, at a different point in the day somebody might come along and translate it. So you see "Lingua.es." Somebody has just, by volunteer, translated it into Spanish.
And so if you see a big story that comes up, the monks in Myanmar, for instance, or You Tube getting blocked in Thailand or You Tube getting blocked in Turkey or whatever, you'll see a bunch of people who come along and translate it. And then what's remarkable is people who know both of the languages will then, in the comments, say, no, no, no, no. You've got it wrong. That word means this.
So there is something about this sort of crowd-sourcing model that will get to truth, in the right environment. But it's not going to be perfect.
JARVIS: Life is not perfect.
JARVIS: And I think that part of problem in the media is that we put the world in a box with a bow on it. And life is a process; and it's a messy process, and the stories kind of never end. And it's just a different way to look at news. It's not perfect, and so if you see it as a process, it's a better end result.
MORAN: Well, I want to open the panel up to questions now.
MORAN: I'd like to ask everybody to please wait until the microphone arrives at your seat. There are assiduous people here who will bring it right to you.
Please stand, state your name and affiliation, if you've got a question. And limit yourself to a question that actually is a question. We've all been at these meetings when there are speeches. And I'd really like to get as many as possible in, and that would really help, if it's just a question, a interrogative. That's it.
QUESTIONER: Thanks very much, Michael. I represent Reporters Without Borders in New York. My name is Talla (ph).
The question of corporate ethical responsibility is something that we're dealing with right now. It is being pushed and lobbied by Congress at a bipartisan level, in particular to the -- (inaudible) -- case, where Yahoo ended up settling with his family for funds that were not being kind of publicly disclosed.
If a U.S. corporate company under U.S. ethical corporate guidelines -- and I think the language here is very difficult to kind of pinpoint, because we're talking about principles and ethics, but if -- they are (devised ?) under a U.S. corporate ethical standard. What we're working on right now with companies -- in particular, shareholders. And the shareholders are the ones that are pushing for this, and they are the ones really lobbying and putting pressure on these companies.
It's not like the companies like Microsoft all of a sudden said, hey, I signed this big contract with China. I'm feeling a little guilty about civil society not having enough information, or it's filtered. Let me do something about it. It's actually the fact that organizations like our own others have worked together to put pressure on these companies through the shareholders that these companies are now saying, let's develop a code of conduct.
And in the process of developing this code of conduct, the question that comes about is under U.S. corporate ethical guidelines, should not those guidelines be duplicated as a template in any country that you're working? Now, the companies will come back to us and say no. They want to sign those deals with China and they're going to do what they have to do in terms of filtering information.
MORAN: John, what do you think?
PALFREY: I'm not 100 percent sure I recognize what the question is. Is it possible for the question -- just to put it in and end on the question? Because I know the topic very well, but --
QUESTIONER: Sure. Basically, the question I am asking is that you've mentioned the ethical responsibilities and the code of conduct. But I want it to be clear here, and to not make a full-on statement, what are the responsibilities of U.S. companies working abroad? And if there is going to be a code of conduct developed, then what is that code of conduct, from your viewpoint? What should it be?
PALFREY: So we've spent a couple of years writing it. (RSF ?) has done a wonderful job of coming up with a set of principles that you think the companies should adopt. And we as academics, along with people at Berkeley, have put up another code, and so forth. So it's a very long answer.
I would love to see something that's not a U.S.-based one, but rather a global one. So one of the benefits of having Vodafone and Telia -- (inaudible) -- at the table is to get companies from other places. I would like to see companies act the same way in -- on key issues of human rights, free expression, and privacy in particular, no matter where they're operating in the world.
I think you know as well as I do, this is a very hard process. And I think there are lots of ways to get this pressure applied. I think shareholder action is a key one, and many of the things that have been put on votes for these companies have been crucial. The U.S. trade representative could be helpful. The United States State Department could be helpful.
The equivalents in places all around the world. I think this is sort of a full-court press approach, and I think the principles approach could be one plank in that -- in the way of getting there.
MORAN: Jeff, you just hobnobbed with these folks at Davos. I mean, is this PR for them, or is this -- you know, this something they need to do absolutely?
JARVIS: I don't hear enough pressure. And I think that's what it gets down to. And I think your question, too, is are the standards the same? Is there an excuse for a company to say, well, it's different there. You've got to understand, it's different there. You know, if I send a family to Saudi Arabia, (so ?) the women can't drive; it's their local law. So what's the (difference ?) between that and something else, right?
I don't see the pressure. I mean, I think the shareholder pressure is one; it's going to be small groups. I think that in the journal of the world we should be putting, you know, who else will stand up for free speech? But we're not, sufficiently. We're not appalled enough at China jailing our journalists, or Iran (jailing ?) bloggers --
PALFREY: Or their own journalists, for that matter.
PALFREY: Or jailing their own journalists.
JARVIS: Yeah, but I mean the fraternity and sorority journalists, yes? Right?
So that's what's disturbing to me is that we don't have enough of -- enough cover or enough pressure.
PALFREY: And I should say this is a plug for a book on which we will make no money. It's a royalty-free book, (so ?) I feel it's okay to do. (Laughter.) It's a book coming out this month from MIT Press called Access Denied, and in it is a chapter where I put down what I thought the principles should say. So if you want an actual answer, it's the chapter in here.
MORAN: Another question? Right here.
QUESTIONER: Hi. I'm Nick Thompson from Wired Magazine. And I have the unsettling sense that the censors are winning politically. Like in the political battle, the bad guys are winning. And this was partly reinforced -- I was talking to a coder who used to try to make software to help people tunnel through the firewall. And he said, I gave up because nobody wanted to use it for politics. This is in China. They just wanted to use it for porn. (Laughter.)
So I want to hear the best, most inspiring story about how the good guys have won in the political censorship fight and whether there's anything that other countries can learn from that.
MORAN: John, you -- talk about what's going on at the University of Toronto. I mean --
PALFREY: Sure, I can do that too.
So the Open Net Initiative is four-university partnership. One of the partners is the University of Toronto, which has a wonderful environment called the Citizen Lab. It's down in the basement. It's got a cage, quite literally, and it's a bunch of coders who are "hacktivists," basically. And they are building a system -- have built a system called Psiphon, which is, in my view, the best of the systems. It's P-s-i-p-h-o-n. And it's a way in which you can route around the censorship.
I think the emergence of -- there are about a dozen of these --
AUDIENCE MEMBER (?): (Remark off mike.)
PALFREY: That's good. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.) Our corporate firewall is -- (laughter) -- is on the ball.
MORAN: I wish there was a member from IOS here.
PALFREY: That's fabulous. It's human rights software, not allowed --
MORAN: There you go. (Laughter.)
PALFREY: The censor is winning, apparently -- (laughter) -- particularly within organizations. This actually is something that's really true, is that most of the censorship that occurs in the world is institutionally based. But -- and we mentioned the fact that block tools, right? So the censors who put these in place block tool sites, including Psiphon, apparently.
One of the other little ironies here is that very often the people making the software that run the blocking services, which you've got here and elsewhere, are American companies based in California. So all of those Middle East and North African states, many of the Middle East and North African states that are blocking the Internet are using U.S.-based software and, in those services, are choosing what is pornography, what is, you know, something too politically sensitive. Those are all being made by Californians, right? So there's actually sort of an amazing thing.
So I think that that story, actually, of the pushback are the people who very quietly and, for literally no money, are coding up the ways to stay ahead of the censors. And to be honest, I don't talk about them all that much, because I don't really want them to show up in Wired too much, so that other people know what's going on.
JARVIS: There was, though -- but back here, as I said before, the majority are not going to the trouble. How do people find out about the next route around?
PALFREY: Yeah. I mean, I think the routes around are talked about in ways that are sometimes public and sometimes not. So, I mean, one of the things that's important to note is that people did communicate other than through this means and actually might, in many cases, be safer to do that, right? And so the -- (inaudible) -- people meeting up in person and telling them where the node is is one way.
Another is plainly in China and places where there's a history of talking in code, they talk in code in public, too. So you have versions of where's the proxy of the day on the Internet in places that somebody can't interpret, you know, what that is. And so there are parts of the Internet where these conversations do go on.
JARVIS: Not to (put this at ?) too trivial a level, prime time TV, but the censors are winning here, too. You know, a huge fining of "NYPD Blue" for a five-year-old exposure of a butt, as if that's going to corrupt the country and has. And how high is our pedestal to talk about this in this country, when we have that?
PALFREY: It might explain things.
MORAN: Yes. You're next.
QUESTIONER: Patricia Carrera (sp) -- (inaudible). A quick question. I think that in a way pornography is a small issue, compared to disinformation. Because the contrary of censorship is disinformation and, in fact, the Internet is going to allow a much bigger (decision ?) of disinformation by anyone you want. So how do you react to that?
PALFREY: I think that's, roughly speaking, the same question that Mike asked earlier, which is to say that mistakes can get put on the Internet and can be promoted as though they were the truth.
And I think one of the difficulties -- what's different about the Web? One thing is the scale of the harm when something goes wrong, right? So if you have a bit of information that is not true and which says something bad about Jeff Jarvis, right? and everybody in the room can hear it when I'm speaking it, that's 100 people, right? who now know something bad about Jeff Jarvis. If you do it on the Web and it actually gets amplified and other people see it, it could be anywhere, anytime, in a persistent fashion, forever. So granted, the harms are potentially greater.
You know, I think that one of the things we're dealing with is new media literacy, the new ways of sorting through information overload, which all of us have to deal with in this environment. And I think you've also got a new series of tools, of communities and ways of determining truth from fiction.
But I think ultimately, credibility on the Web is going to be one of the long-term complicated issues.
MORAN: And I have to say, having made the transition from newspapers to broadcast and then to the Web, I have found that mistakes in newspapers and broadcast often go into the ether. They get corrected in newspapers, but in a very tiny box somewhere.
A major mistake on the Web comes back and comes back and comes back and comes back, because it's interactive. People continue to refer to it. CNN's -- that, I think it was Tailwind; was that the thing? You go on CNN and that -- you search for that word, it still comes up every day. Everyday someone is referring to the slander of the U.S. military that was --
PALFREY: Tailhook, wasn't it?
MORAN: Whatever it was, it had to do with a covert operation in Vietnam. So, I mean, it is -- actually, it works both ways.
JARVIS: But I think -- I talked earlier about (wanting ?) the ethic of transparency in this new world. There's also a different ethic of correction. And in major media, certainly we do corrections, but you don't find many corrections on the CBS Evening News.
On my blog, when I mess up, it is incumbent upon me to correct that as quickly as possible, to leave the error in and cross it out, to point that out. And so there's an emerging ethic of the correction in how this world works. There's also services like Snopes, that debunk urban myths. When my father sends around to my sister and me those e-mails that have been forwarded to a hundred people, my sister will go to Snopes and say, Pa, uh-uh. Look, it's already gotten debunked. So yes, there's a -- (inaudible) -- wouldn't do that? Well, maybe not, but I think that there's a speed to the correction, too, that matters.
And one more point on that is that when you try to make the world pretty, you're going to mess up worse. So before this session, we were talking about the fact that what I write in the United States can now make me liable in the U.K., where I write for the Guardian, even though I write it here in the U.S. and it didn't appear in the Guardian; it appears in the Internet here. So we get to this danger of this lowest common denominator of efforts at controlling and correcting things.
Susan Crawford is a brilliant attorney on ICANN, and now at the University of Michigan, I think, right? Has argued that -- she didn't go quite this far, but I'll unfairly summarize her. The libel laws are out of date because there is now a means of response that didn't exist before when you had to respond through the guy who owned the press. I think that's important, too. I think that we've got to loosen up a lot more and recognize the messiness of life.
MORAN: Well, we have time for one more question. I think there was --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off mike.)
MORAN: Yes, sir. And I hope you'll all join us, raise a glass to my staff at cfr.org after this at the cocktail party.
QUESTIONER: Indeed. I'm Bill Drayton from Ashoka Innovators for the Public.
Privacy is, of course, the other side of openness, and that's a very (natured ?) concern, because the commercial interest in gaining information is very high and there's ever-increasing demand, legitimate demand, for preventive surveillance. And the cost of surveillance is going down 30 percent a year, or whatever it is.
One would think, if one is worried about democracy in terms of communications and civil liberties more generally that human rights would be very much focused on how do we build countervailing interventions to ensure privacy, whether it's the individual citizen or the author or whatever. What is happening there, to what degree is that in fact a strategy emerging in the human rights community, and where are we in terms of the technology?
PALFREY: That's a good one -- (inaudible).
So I think just two notes on that. One is that I wouldn't necessarily see it as a countervailing interest to openness, necessarily, but I do think the privacy is a problem very related to the speeches you here, which is as these states develop the apparatus to block a message, they have, roughly speaking, the same apparatus to listen in on the message as it goes by. We, of course, are wildly guilty of this ourselves, and it's a lively debate as to how that happens.
But I think -- and it's very hard. We have tried for many years to figure out, could we technically show how surveillance is happening the same way as showing whether a page is censored. And the answer is no; it's too hard. We're trying to continue to figure it out, but it's very difficult to know.
So I'm very worried that the human rights community, by and large, will do much of its activity through the Internet -- it's helpful for productivity; it's helpful for publication -- but in a way that puts it further risk, as more and more states are practicing this kind of Internet surveillance.
So I think there's a very real way in which this mechanism, the Internet, ends up not being a force for democratic growth, but rather a tool for tyrants. And I think we have to watch that balance. These are neutral technologies which can be used. They're not coded in any particular way to favor one outcome or another, and I think we have to focus on it.
And the second note would just be to take a look at a place like Turkey. This is a place that hasn't done Internet censorship. It's not one of the 2,000 or so places that have. But this past week, they decided to block all of You Tube because there were some videos critical of Attaturk on there.
So it's an interesting point. These states that are trying to figure out which way do you go? Do you stay in the broadly free version of the Internet, or do you join the growing number of states that are creating their own Internets that have censorship built into them in some fashion and, I believe, surveillance with it. So I think there's a lot of places to -- (inaudible).
MORAN: Want to tackle that, too?
JARVIS: Yeah, real quick. And I guess I'm sounding like an amateur sociologist, trying to look at these larger societal trends around this, but this is what fascinates me most.
And as I just trivialized it, bringing it down to a bare butt on "NYPD Blue," I'll trivialize this, bringing it down to Facebook. And there's this fear we hear about youth and privacy, and this is (exactly ?) what Facebook -- Mark Zuckerberg, a proud not-quite-graduate of Harvard who started it, got into some trouble because the news feed on Facebook, people said, oh my God, -- (inaudible) -- is coming, and there turns out to be a very important thing. And the new ad structure he has lets you know, oh, your friend John just saw this movie, and then puts the movie ad next to it. And there is some fear about that.
But the issue, to me, in the end, isn't -- among young people I know -- is not privacy; it's control. And so what happens is to make connections in this world, you must reveal something of yourself. You can't join the ski club until you say you're a skier. You can't join in the conversation till you reveal something of yourself. So there is a compulsion to reveal on the Internet, because benefit comes from it.
I revealed my heart condition in my blog. No big deal. Arrythmia. (Laughter.) But from that I got tons of advice and help and all kinds of -- so privacy advocates would yell at me and slap my wrist and say, what are you doing? It's the most precious, private thing. Well, it wasn't. When I got back, it was precious. So there's this constant balancing of that.
So the same thing with identity and anonymity. In our discussion here, anonymity tends to be a bit of a devil because it means people can hide behind that cloak and they can misbehave. But in other nations, of course, anonymity is a precious necessity so that they can survive.
Identity here is -- (inaudible) -- think it's why Facebook is -- (inaudible) -- because we're thirsting after real identity and real relationships, but in other cases that can become very dangerous.
So I don't want to come to any conclusion, which is a bad way to end this -- (laughter) -- but --
PALFREY: There are tensions there that --
JARVIS: But there are wonderful tensions there. Thank you very much. See? The lawyer has come out in John.
JARVIS: And so I think that that's where we end up with this, is that privacy is a matter of safety in some countries, but it's also a matter of this right to speak and say who I am and to have an identity. And that, too, is precious. And so there is an exquisite tension there.
MORAN: Well, I'd like to thank John Palfrey and Jeff Jarvis for their --
(C) COPYRIGHT 2008, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.
NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.