Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blogging the Tibetan Protests (and Doing Something About Them)...

Last weekend, protests in Tibet against the Chinese authorities erupted into violence, and scores of demonstrators were killed, although the exact numbers have been difficult to determine. What is certain is that websites like YouTube and Boing Boing, and news channels like CNN and the BBC, have all been blacked out. So while no one really knows what exactly is going on in complete detail, numerous websites nevertheless have been posting first-hand accounts of the events transpiring. For the sake of using the internet to subvert the censorship of a totalitarian regime, here is a quick roundup.

Boing Boing has process-traced the Chinese government's censorship. Since they have been denying it, its a useful analysis that scientifically determines that censorship is, in fact, taking place, and uncovers what and how exactly it is occurring.

YouTube has over 200 videos posted by users chronicling both what's been reported in the traditional media as well as amateur user-generated videos by eye-witnesses.

Twitter has provided real-time reporting often in conversational form, as people have been texting Twitter updates from their cell phones which are immediately posted to the Web. The Tenement Palm blog has been translating some of these into English.

Another terrific collection of translated Tibetan blog posts can be found at Global Voices. And, of course, plenty of commentary is available by Westerners following the situation from afar as well.

However, demonstrating that the blogosphere espouses all points of view, many posts can also be found in Chinese blogs and chatrooms "that generally runs along the lines of: those ungrateful minorities, we give them modern conveniences and look how they thank us... where have we heard this before? [Meanwhile,] Reuters has a roundup on the Washington Post that begins: 'a look at Chinese blogs reveals a vitriolic outpouring of anger and nationalism directed against Tibetans and the West'."

All of which demonstrates the potential power of the internet, not so much as a democratizing force in its own right, but rather as a media mechanism for exposing events and bringing awareness to what's actually happening in the world. Even with a censoring government, plenty of venues still exist for Tibetan protesters to both access and publish information.

For those of you wondering how you can actually help in a pro-active way, consider setting up your home PC as a proxy server. It's relatively simple and easy to set up, and it will provide individuals within China the ability to reach censored websites like YouTube. You can try out and actually use my proxy server here.


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