May 07, 2007

Philipp Lenssen: A Chat with Aaron Swartz (about Google, China, etc)

Bandwagon: A Chat with Aaron Swartz, conducted by Philipp Lenssen, covers a lot of interesting ground on the topic of Google, censorship, tech culture, and so on (h/t Shelley).

I'll note one particular part of the exchange:

Philipp: It would be interesting to see where we'd be if some of these engineers, some of them the smartest in the world, would be working on anti-censorship technology today.

Aaron: Indeed. Google's hackers are a lot smarter than the Cisco people building the Great Firewall of China. Google's skills are in building clever technology, not persuading foreign governments to be nicer to their citizens. It's absurd to say that the best thing for the people of the China is to do the latter instead of the former.

This is the unending tech-vs-law argument. It's a big mistake to think that the only smart geeks are on the anti-censorship side. If nothing else, the pro-censorship side pays a lot better :-( ! And as we've seen, Google's brainpower can be co-opted, with their geeks put in the service of China's government censorship, by Google simply ordering their employees to help the censors.

Worse, one of the points I sometimes try to convey, is that the activist's biggest source of danger is generally not the government agent, but another activist or similar who has something to gain by turning him (or her) in.

The collaborationist dilemma is an old one, and I'm very much against it. But I've yet to find a way to make much progress with it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on May 07, 2007 04:02 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Google understands the Internet, but then it's still a self-centred organisation - however, much it aims to avoid doing much evil.

The only people who will fund engineers to do good for the people, are the people themselves.

Unfortunately, the people's elected representatives (who are supposed to do this sort of thing) tend to be more interested in helping out self-centred organisations (biased towards those with more money rather than shinier haloes).

So, it looks to me like the people are going to have to cut out the middleman, get their hands dirty and do the job themselves - which, as they say, is what you have to do if you want the job done properly.

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at May 8, 2007 01:34 PM