Digital Refugees

Twitter-fist The Thursday outage on Twitter and Facebook that left millions without access was the result of a cyber-attack against a political blogger from the Republic of Georgia. The blogger, who goes by the name "CYXYMU," accuses the Russian government of trying to silence him. FP's Evgeny Morozov has been tracking CYXYMU's campaign of dissent for many months now, dubbing him the first "digital refugee." Morozov's post on the latest attack is a must read for those interested in the growing geopolitical influence of technologies such as Twitter:

One immediate danger here is that we will spend the next few days arguing about Russia's cyberwarfare ambitions, while, in fact, we should be talking about ways to protect freedom of expression online. [...] CYXYMU's blogs were deleted [last year] by the platforms that had been attacked (LiveJournal and WordPress amongst them), since there was no other way to stop them. [...I]n the absence of strong and public commitments to defending freedom of expression, most Web2.0 companies would inevitably lean towards organizational efficiency and cost-optimization - i.e. deleting problematic users, particularly if solving their problems eats up too much of corporate resources and staff time.

His discussion of the "cute cat" strategy is also fascinating:

Targeted cyber-attacks on popular Web services like Twitter and Facebook also present the strongest antidote to Ethan Zuckerman's Cute Cat Theory, which states that to avoid being censored activists should place their online presence right in the middle of mundane and trivial spaces (e.g. people sharing videos of cats), because their governments won't be bold enough to censor those ones. Well, as we have seen in the case of CYXYMU, if bloggers do irk somebody, they might be still be silenced - this time not by a government fiat blocking the service, but by targeted cyberwarfare campaigns against the sites that host that blogger, no matter how trivial those are.

(Illustration of #Iranelection by Jeff Clark)