Busted bloggers

According to a report by Professor Philip Howard and the World Information Access Project, bloggers in some parts of the world who publish posts critical of government activities have been arrested in record numbers this past year. People are getting busted for (a) using blogs to organize or cover social protest, (b) violating cultural norms, (c) posting comments about public policy, (d) exposing corruption or human rights violations, and (e) for other reasons (or no given reason).

As one might guess, the bulk of the arrests are in countries with fewer liberties than in the US: Burma, China, Egypt, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, and Tunisia. That chilly idea makes me happy for those of us who have free speech. However, not all of the arrests are in such places. The report identifies one as occurring in Canada and two as occurring in the USA. The two in the USA were in the category of “other or no reason given”; I have to wonder what cases those are. Does anyone know?

Here is the lead from the University of Washington press release:

Authoritarian regimes around the world are dealing with troublesome citizen bloggers by arresting them, and they’re doing it more often, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

“Last year, 2007, was a record year for blogger arrests, with three times as many as in 2006. Egypt, Iran and China are the most dangerous places to blog about political life, accounting for more than half of all arrests since blogging became big,” said Phil Howard, an assistant professor of communication. With his students, Howard prepared the World Information Access Report, which documents sources and consequences of social inequality in the information age.

In response to harassment, a significant number of political bloggers are going underground. They are blogging anonymously, and using other online tools such as MySpace and YouTube to post critical commentary.

Howard, Philip N, and World Information Access Project. World Information Access Report – 2008. 3. Seattle: University of Washington, 2008.

Jump to the press release or download the nifty PDF graphics. Flash of the electrons to Heather Havenstein of ComputerWorld for alerting me to this story.

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Filed under Free speech, News, Politics, Technology

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