March 19, 2010

Democracy Online: Can the Internet Bring Change?

LAST SUMMER a chilling 40-second video clip, recorded on a cell phone, went viral and caught the attention of the world. It captured the haunting image of a 26-year old music student, Neda Soltan, who was shot and killed in the streets of Tehran while protesting the Iranian presidential election.

Some experts look at this incident and others where new technology is being used by opponents of repressive regimes and have come to the conclusion that online free expression has the potential to bring about great democratic changes. Others are less optimistic, noting that governments are manipulating Internet activists and that, in any case, all the activity amounts to little more than taking offline techniques and moving them online.

So is the Internet stoking democratic change or is its impact hyped? Are repressive regimes conditioning people not to expect free expression on the Internet? Is online organizing little more than a game of Whac-a-Mole with one form of repression being replaced by another? What are the implications for political organizing of the recent discovery that the email accounts of dozens of Chinese human rights advocates appear to have been hacked? Join Google and Freedom House to answer this question and many more.

Please submit and vote on these and other questions for the panel at Google Moderator (www.googledctalks.com).

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