Technology For Freedom (And I’m Not Talking About Iran)

We’ve been inundated with stories on how Twitter enabled the protests in Iran. Around the same time we were reading about China’s proposed requirement that all computers sold in China come with the “GreenDam-Youth Escort” Internet filtering software. On the one hand technology seemed to help the cause of freedom, while on the other it harmed it. Now China has backed down from the Green Dam requirement, saying it decided to postpone the mandate.

But this too was a victory for technology. If access to the Internet were not available in China (even though not totally open), and if technology companies didn’t see the huge potential in the growing (both in people and in wealth) Chinese market, opposition to the plan would’ve been muted. Instead, the Chinese people were against this rule and, as Dan Harris says on the China Law Blog, “…Beijing does NOT want to go against the people on something like this. Since there is absolutely no reason to believe the people will ever start liking something like this, there is absolutely no reason to believe the software will return.” (Despite Ministry statements to the contrary.) Dan also links to a Sky Canaves post in WSJ’s China Journal that discusses China’s “Politics of Consent.”

So again, another victory for technology. With the possible exception of North Korea (and even that can’t last much longer, can it?), technology has begun to bring freedom to closed and oppressed states around the world. In China’s case, we remember the country as scary therefore it remains scary, but the walls of oppression are crumbling and they can’t be rebuilt. For those worried about the effect of outsourcing to China on the US economy, there is only one answer – outsource as much as is profitable as soon as possible so we can turn them from hungry capitalists to satisfied capitalists. That’s when it becomes a consumer economy. And as Dan Harris says, “…I know movement has been slow, and I know it has been in fits and starts, but if we were to draw a straight line through the rises and falls, freedom is on a fairly inexorable march in China.”

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