[Freedombox-discuss] Raining on the parade

Sandy Harris sandyinchina at gmail.com
Tue Jun 26 01:32:26 UTC 2012

On Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 12:20 PM, Ted Smith <tedks at riseup.net> wrote:

> On Mon, 2012-06-25 at 11:07 +0800, Sandy Harris wrote:
>> Evgeny Morozov has written a critique of the whole
>> notion of using the net as a way to liberate the world.
>> His book definitely has limitations; for one thing, he
>> looks at the problem mainly from the point of view
>> of US foreign policy. However, I'd say it is still
>> worth reading: http://www.evgenymorozov.com/
> It's not clear what this critique actually is from your email, the
> linked website, the Wikipedia page on Morozov, or the Foreign Policy
> articles linked to in the sources. He seems to be mostly critical of the
> American government's two-faced chastisement of Iran and China, which
> doesn't really speak to the relevance of the Freedombox project.

It is a complex critique and the only way to get it in full would
be to read the book. I'll try to summarise it, but of course no
one should expect the summary to be exact.

The book's title is "The Net Delusion"; the version advertised
on the website has the subtitle "The dark side of Internet
freedom" but the version I have (bought in China from
a state-run bookstore, interestingly enough) uses a
different subtitle "How not to liberate the world". That
is a one-sentence summary of what I consider his
main point.

Morizov is highly critical of what he calls "Internet utopians".
His main arguments are that:

  there is nothing inevitable about freedom of information
   leading to social and political change

  the net in particular and electronics in general provide
    powerful tools for surveillance and oppression

  as an instrument of foreign policy intended to promote
    democracy worldwide (which he assumes is a US goal,
    though he does discuss the contradictions), the net
    is not the right tool

Now I do not think he is entirely correct and as a
Canadian living in China I am not nearly as
concerned about US foreign policy as he is.

However, I do think he raises some interesting
questions. In particular, I think the Box should
be a partial answer to his first and second points.

To me, the single most obvious and essential
application a Freedom Box should run is some
means of bypassing the Great Firewall and
other censorship. My guess at how to do
that would be to make every Box a TOR
input node, but there are several other

One risk of the current net is that social
networks, email providers, etc. can be
used to track people, in particular to
track them down when a government is
irritated with them. Consider Yahoo
turning in Shi Tao or the US gov't
demanding Twitter records for people
involved with WikLeaks.

Those are Morizov's second point; the
net as a tool for oppression. As I see it,
preventing that sort of thing is the most
important goal of the Box project and the
question of how exactly to manage that
is critical.

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