“I’m constantly reminded of the Cesar Chavez quote, ‘The fight is never
about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.’ This idea is at the
core of Internet freedom. This fight isn’t about wires and pipes or bits
and bytes, it’s about people and their ability to communicate freely and
uplift their communities.”
—amalia deloney, Center for Media Justice, 2011 Knowledge Exchange

As we entered day two of the Knowledge Exchange, never was it more clear
the urgency of the Internet freedom work we’re embarking on. Over the
course of the day the following news stories were reported:

  • Allegations from online users that Twitter had blocked hashtags #troydavis and #toomuchdoubt from becoming trending topics despite a massive outpouring of Internet support for Troy Davis.  Troy Davis was executed last night by the state of Georgia for the murder of a police officer even in the face of substantial evidence
    pointing to his innocence.  Preventing these hashtags from trending would be
    tantamount to censorship.  This is nothing new for Twitter—allegations in the past have been made that to prevent public disruption, the website has suppressed trending topics involving the Egyptian uprising and WikiLeaks.
  • ThinkProgress reported that Yahoo was forced to apologize Monday after
    admitting that people using their email messaging service were prevented
    from sending messages about the anti-Wall Street protests that took place
    over the weekend.  The story was later picked up by main stream media.
  • A report released by Tech-Progress uncovered that Google generates the
    majority of their revenue by offering advertisers “highly relevant
    advertising”—a proxy for racial and economic profiling.  Earlier this
    year, it was found that Google generated billions of dollars from selling
    the names of individuals to subprime mortgage lenders and other advertisers
    found to be engaging in highly unethical activities.

As we talk about all the issues surrounding Internet freedom and mobile
communications, we have to make sure the conversation doesn’t get derailed
by rhetoric minimizing the urgency of these issues.  Some will dismiss this
as a legitimate human rights issue- they will say that the technology
conversation is one we don’t need to have because there are more “pressing”
issues such as the economy or education. But we as advocates and organizers
have to impress upon people that these are not mutually exclusive

Internet freedom issues tie into our respective social justice work and
helps us better serve our communities—or better yet prepare the community
to serve itself.  We’re talking about checks and balances for our legal
system to ensure innocent people aren’t put to death by the state.  We’re
also talking about the freedom to express our first amendment rights and
not have our voices suppressed by corporations or government.  And we’re
talking about protection for individuals from being targeted by predatory
lenders and unethical, borderline illegal businesses.  Make no mistake
about it—this is not a fight about a cell phone, this is and always will
be a fight for the people and our inalienable rights.


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