“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 broke:
- Allegations from online users that Twitter 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— to prevent public disruption in the past, the website has been accused of suppressing trending topics involving the Egyptian uprising and WikiLeaks. Twitter has a policy that they can block hashtags they deem "offensive".
- 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 conversations.
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.