Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

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YouTube Censorship

July 27, 2008

A recent post by TheMachineisUs about his visit to Istanbul, where he whitnessed first-hand Internet censorship reminded me of my own reaction of amazement, when I first learned that YouTube is banned in Tunisia earlier this month. The reason why the Turkish court banned YouTube is the exchange of offensive videos between Greek and Turkish users, which turned into an on-line war. The reason for that in Tunisia was to conceal government’s repression over protesters. I have so taken access to the Internet for granted both here in the United States and in Bulgaria, that these examples of censorship woke me up to fact that this may be very different in other countries. It suddenly occurs to me to try and find out online evidence of how many countries have ever banned YouTube, who they are and for what reasons. Perhaps there is a register kept somewhere…

Yes, there is! After googling for a while under several search criteria, voila – I find that Wikipedia has taken care of this on a page titled Blocking of YouTube. Thirteen countries are listed there.  They have blocked temporarily or permanenty acces to the entire YouTube site or parts of it. I am glad Bulgaria is not part of the list even though we know first-hand what political censorship means from the no-so-far-away past before 1989. But of course that was the pre-Internet era, when offline books were “arrested”.

freedom of expression behind bars

Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil are in the blockers list. What’s common is that with only a few exceptions most of them are countries in Asia. I am not drawing any conclusions here, just sharing an observation. The reasons for the Blocking of YouTube worldwide range from politicial censorship, through religious concerns to adult content bans. The case with Pakistan’s blocking of YouTube in February this year raised not just censorship issues, but an alarm about security and trust on the Internet, as Brian Krebs of the Washington Post argues in his Security Fix blog post. Due to a technical glitch YouTube acces was blocked not only in Pakistan, but in the entire world for seveal hours. Krebs asks the challenging question: “What would our government make of it, say, if all of a sudden all traffic destined for .gov domains wound up in China or North Korea?” He suggests that diplomatc trouble can be stirred up by jeopardizing Internet trust.

My question after reading all this is: Are we to expect the list of countries blocking YouTube to grow in the future?

I would be curious to keep an eye on it.

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Matching Niches

July 25, 2008

The Long Tail

I am fascinated with the topic Shannon raises in her blog entry on “The Long Tail & Dating“, because I just realized I have been there. I am a living example of The Long Tail applied to dating. I did indeed find my special one on Match.com little less than a year ago. Also, there is one more person I know, who did this successfully, after I encouraged her to try, based on my positive experience with the online dating service. Even though I often joke about that I should be a paid spokesperson/endorser of Match.com – no, I do not receive a fee to promote it. I have not even considered taking the time to go back to Match.com and share my “success story”. Instead, I just informally encourage single people who do not want to be single anymore to try it with the warning that it is what you make of it. The service is just a tool, but it is up to you to be honest about who you are and be specific about who you are looking for. As with all things, destiny and luck play a role, but they are definitely aided by your conscious attempt to change the situation for yourself.

Filling out a form to find that special someone seems hilarious. It did seem mechanic to me at first – marking with checks my preferred options. Almost like ordering a meal or choosing a piece of clothing. That is why I like to say that my boyfriend came to me “out of a catalogue” and “tailor-made”. Now that I think of it – he is as imperfect as my own online search criteria 🙂 But seriously, the system works in a very customized way, which saves you many questions/doubts you would have for someone you met the traditional way. I am not saying it is safer. I am only saying it’s easier.

In her blog Shannon quotes The Long Tail that “there is something for everyone” out there to find on the web. When we apply The Long Tail to dating and relationships, it would sound like: There is someone for everyone. Reminds me of a Bulgarian saying from the pre-Internet era: “There is a passenger for every train”. And if we are talking about niches, what could be more specific and authentic than another human being. There are no replicas of people and even the most rare products/things on the (online) market have copies. So, the web simply helps us find this unque one person for us, when he/she is missing in our life. An almost devine function, isn’t it?! The amazing part is how random and yet precise online matching is.

I agree with Shannon that the Internet has changed markets and has influenced our personal lives as well. And to the opponents or disbelievers of online dating I would respond: If we are as picky as to what piece of software or pair of shoes we want (to buy online), why would our search for a relationship be less careful than that? I did it once and it worked at once. So, I am a believer. 

There is one questions that people in love ask each other, when they finally meet: “So, where have you been all this time?”. My “Long Tail” answer to today is: “In a special niche, waiting to match your search criteria”.

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War 2.0, Unedited

July 21, 2008

Here I am today – munching some Middle Eastern staple food (pita bread with hummus) for a quick lunch and reflecting on this week’s class topic about the Iraq war’s on-line dimensions and how the Internet is changing our perception of war. While browsing through the overwhelming amount of on-line materials related to the war in Iraq – blogs, videos, articles, discussions – it occurs to me as a surprise that there are no two sides of the story. There are plenty! There are as many sides as the number of people involved in the global conversation about it with their unique perspectives, narrative and view points.

The Internet and Web 2.0 put us literally in the middle of the action in this war. In previous wars it has also been possible for us to be exposed to first-hand narrative from soldiers interviewed by the media or TV footage. What is different now is that soldiers and war victims (refugees) have become the media themselves, giving us the ultimate live feed of stories from the trenches. It is the first-person account of war, unedited. For real. Do we need to be that close to the war? Yes, we do. And this is not a question of good or bad. It is a reality and a necessity. We should have that much access to the front lines of the war, because of their right to share and our right to know.

One of the topics concerning the war in Iraq that grabbed me was how children and young people are influenced by it and how they relate to what is happening. That is bearing in mind not only the suffering of Iraqi kids and youth, but also the fact that so many American soldiers are young people themselves. I found an interesting juxtaposition between two stories reported by the War News Radio earlier this year. The first one described how it is unsafe and practically impossible for Iraqi young people to meet or even date, as public social life is non-existent there any more and they have to resort to the use of the Internet to keep in touch, chat, talk via Skype and make friends. In the second story the mother of a 23-year old American soldier tells how her son came back from his deployment in Iraq suffering shame, gult, trauma, disillusionment and paranoia and was constantly getting in trouble by trying to “bring the adrenaline back”. She says the first time her son went to war for the idea of bringing democracy to Iraq. The second time his reason changed to “oil”, as his belief in the cause of this war dwindled.

The Iraq war brought not only disappointment about its purpose, but also disappointment about how it is protrayed by traditional media. Soldier Brian Paul, for example, came to the bitter conclusion that the media fails to show the reality experienced by the American troups in Iraq. This prompted him to find a remedy for all misleading or inaccurate media reports on any topic by creating the FixMedia website. There citizens can flag problematic media content. Would Brian have done it, if he had not experienced personal disappointment? I don’t know. But it is good to know that he enabled at least one open place on the web that is free from politically biased fact checking on media stories with the only purpose “to seize the truth”.

One last note about young people involved in the war – they are social media savvy and want to have fun, as shown in this video, I came across today entitled “Dance Party in Iraq”. It may seem strange and my first reaction was to get judgemental, but then it occured to me that it actually provides one authentic and vivacious perspective, doesn’t it?