a firewall around the country, it is more difficult to argue that the price KazakhTelecom charges for people to search Google is a travesty of choice.

At a deeper level, Sigal warned about the temptation to view Big Brother as a metaphor for the evolution of cyberspace. Such a view assumes that regimes are monolithic, but they usually are not; rather, they shift or split their alliances to achieve multiple and contrasting objectives. A better paradigm is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. “Given enough freedom, we surveill ourselves. It’s not that there’s a watcher who will control everything that we do. [It’s] us, especially in free societies.”

Policymakers can take several steps to help communities of activists and prodemocracy organizations oppose the actions of oppressive governments. For example, some projects funded by the State Department have helped provide anonymity for activists. Since many of the technologies that repressive regimes use to track, spy on, and otherwise monitor activists come from Western companies, export controls can clamp down on the distribution of these technologies. However, this approach is more difficult with nondemocratic countries that are nominally allies, and such controls do not affect unfriendly countries where some of these technologies are made.

Some technology companies are working actively, though quietly, with activists toward positive ends. Some have hotlines and mediation processes so that if a government attempts to take down a posting, a company can assert that it is in fact a piece of rights documentation. “I want to commend those companies,” said Sigal. “That kind of process that allows for some kind of clarification about what the political value of that material is has a lot of impact.” Companies that build surveillance and privacy tools also have the option of conducting human rights audits among their clients, a strategy backed by many freedom-of-expression advocates.

A critical aspect of interpreting the information generated by technologies, said Sigal, is the creation of a frame for analysis. A set of events can occur that will not necessarily predict an outcome but make it more likely. For that reason, Global Voices analyzes, translates, and aggregates local citizen media for global audiences, focusing mostly on the developing world, and systematically tracks threats or events in fragile states. “We can see these events occur, almost like a rhythm, within a set of 50 to 60 countries around the world. That’s reactive, but it gives us a policy framework for imagining where these events might occur.”

He also noted that peacebuilding is not the only framework for looking at sensing and emerging conflicts. People involved in conflicts do not necessarily see them in a negative light. Through a lens of justice, democracy

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement