Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cute Cat Theory

Activism, the internet, and cute cats -- there's a relationship here that I never would have dreamed of. The theory is that when oppressive governments try to censor the internet, they inevitably make activists out of everybody, because people who previously had no interest in subversion are suddenly determined to get their rightful dose of cute cats:
With web 2.0, we’ve embraced the idea that people are going to share pictures of their cats, and now we build sophisticated tools to make that easier to do. as a result, we’re creating a wealth of tech that’s extremely helpful for activists. There are twin revolutions going on - the ease of creating content and the ease of sharing it with local and global audiences.
Blocking banal content on the internet is a self-defeating proposition. It teaches people how to become dissidents - they learn to find and use anonymous proxies, which happens to be a key first step in learning how to blog anonymously. Every time you force a government to block a web 2.0 site - cutting off people’s access to cute cats - you spend political capital. Our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.
Okay, the point isn't really about cute cats. "Cute cats" are symbolic of everything banal on the internet. When everybody is using a tool, it makes it harder for the government to sweep it away -- even behind the great firewall of China.

Still, some countries, China especially, have become quite adept at creating their own Web 2.0 clones with censorship built right in. While one study has concluded that it is difficult to carry out web censorship consistently and effectively, we know U.S. corporations will always be up to the lucrative challenge.

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