Blogging for Political and Social Change

June 14, 2011
Tunisian Works on Laptop in Coffee Shop in Tunis

As Secretary Clinton returns from Africa, here in Washington D.C. the State Department has been hosting some of the world's best known and most influential bloggers, including several headliners from Africa. The bloggers are part of a larger international group of online journalists and activists from Egypt, Tunisia, Uganda, Bahrain, Burma, China and at least a dozen other countries. They have already met with Secretary Clinton's Senior Advisor for Innovation, Alec Ross, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Daniel Baer. Also on tap are discussions with government and independent U.S. bloggers and several groups working on promoting freedom of expression on the Internet.

We had the pleasure of meeting with this group to discuss with them our work on DipNote and USAID's Impact Blog and were deeply inspired by their thoughtful questions and brave stories. The bloggers wanted to know: "How can we maintain access to the web in our countries and how can we protect ourselves from official crackdowns on on-line activism?" Most had personal stories of detention and harassment. Many said they expected to be arrested once they returned to their countries. All insisted they would not -- could not -- back down.

As one young blogger from the Middle East said, "Our blogs are our voice, and our voices are finally being heard."

So what are we doing to protect those voices? Secretary Clinton has clearly and consistently promoted Internet freedom. During her remarks on this subject in January, she said, "On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas."

And as Alec Ross said to the bloggers in Washington, "There are more than 190 countries in the world today and we have the exact same internet policy in every single one of them: Keep it free and open." He went on to discuss efforts to provide new technologies to bloggers around the world that would help them remain anonymous while on-line. He also outlined a Department-wide push to use social media to reach out to the general public in countries where we may have traditionally only been able to interact with a tiny slice of the total population.

"The key," he said, "is to remember that social media isn't about changing minds. It's about connecting with other people and hearing their opinions. I have told all our ambassadors -- you have one mouth but two ears. Use them!"

Daniel Baer connected the State Department's work on Internet freedom promotion with the work of the bloggers and discussed emerging challenges to online free expression in their countries. When asked by one blogger about what she can do, Baer replied "Keep being you." He went on to describe the State Department's diplomatic efforts to expand online free expression in a number of countries.

Indeed, this week's Foreign Press Center-sponsored blogger tour -- combined with a global exchange program of Internet Freedom Fellows-- occurs in large part as a result of our listening to bloggers in the field, many of whom reported a surge in on-line crackdowns and voiced a desire to network with their international peers. This past May hundreds of journalists and freedom of expression advocates from across the world traveled here for the 2011 UNESCO World Press Freedom Day events. We're pleased to see that many of the participants around the globe continue to carry on the conversations that began during those meetings.

And late last week, a follow-up group of human rights activists and bloggers traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to attend a Human Rights Council session on, "Maintaining an Open Internet for Human Voices of Freedom." That group, including our bloggers from Africa, is now in Washington D.C., where they will participate in the Foreign Press Center's "Foreign Reporting Tour: Blogging for Social and Political Change."

There is little doubt they all share an absolute and unyielding commitment to Internet freedom and can inspire likeminded activists from around the world.



Darren N.
United Kingdom
June 15, 2011

Darren N. in the United Kingdom writes:

The US Goverment remain absolutely silent regarding the inprisonment of Joe Gordon an American citizen who is now locked up in Thaland for the alleged "crime" of Lese Majeste.What makes this astonishingly worse,is that the alleged "crime" of sharing a link to a book "The King Never Smiles" happened while he was on US soil.

John M.
June 15, 2011

John M. in Canada writes:

These people need considerable help and organization. Darren in UK makes a good point. Then again free speech in England is under serious threat. Things are ugly everywhere and have been for some time. I would respond more to Darren’s point but it wouldn’t get posted.

New Mexico, USA
June 16, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Luke,

Imagine a world in which totalitarianism withers on the vine due to lack of interest, because the tyrants are too busy blogging their way to genocidal immortality in a virtual setting.

Imstead of isolation, we engage tyrants in total immersion , hook 'em up to the latest gaming gear and let them zap all the "bots" they want to.

Mind you, the "bots" get to zap back, because it's online and interactive, and the leadership in question is strapped in involuntarily,...(chuckle); oh yeah, and for the really twisted ethical infants, the "bots" go into "zombi mode" and bring it on while decomposing.

This, after about 6 solid months non-stop, (as far as Genocidal aversion therapy's go), gets one of two probable results.

Either the subject is left a drooling idiot to be cared for in an institutional setting forevermore, or he's simply decomposed himself, as to his fate, and won't make anyone any trouble as he's too busy picking up after himself, or pulling himself he's convinced he's one with the zombies. Certifiably insane, but one guy in a white coat with a butterfly net could probably handle that bundle of joy.

( hat tip to John in Greece for a certain comparitive analysis between dictators and the living dead providing the inspiration, and nurse Ratchet from "one flew over the cookoo's nest" for the basic concept):)

Waterboarding was just flat archaic, when what would be a better bet in the long term is a total reprogramming package that provides a little entertainment.

In a vitual on-line and off-line reality of geek squad vs, goon squad, is anyone keeping score? I'm about to toss the frrikkin' water fountain out the window and beat it out of here, it's just way too much BS on the world stage for anyone's mental health.

Howabout instead of jerking Assad's chain with sanctions one more time, we simply pull the plug, and put his lights out..., people?

Do you feel me now?

Or we do a mock strafing run with 4 f-16's over his palace at tree-top level and break some glass, shatter his mirrors, along with the sound barrier and give him something to think about first perhaps.

As the Arab Spring is lookin' for some to be a midsummer's nightmare, we best get crackin' heads if we want to earn the respect of the people in the region, for it is they we must ultimately prove our nation's rhetoric to as being worthy of their ears.



John P.
June 22, 2011

John in Greece:

@ Eric in New Mexico

The big problem with “regime leaders” around the world is to predict the unique moment, when the “carrier” of the virus, becomes really psychotic.

A pro-lunatic…

@ Mr. Forgerson, Mrs. Rodriguez and Eric: THANK YOU very much for this extremely interesting posts.

South Korea
June 22, 2011

Palgye in South Korea writes:

wrote to China person by facebook..........
yes, just story.

Indo-China Peninsula, overlooking the heightened tensions,

International territorial disputes, I do not know about, but
China facing temporary economic difficulties, in order to resolve the West's aggressive development is important, but cooperation with India and Indo-China Peninsula to think of it as a companion of consumption and production, distribution that the yuan, Chinese currency policy within When alone, a difficult situation, balancing on external factors, other protective measures, the advantage and I think it's possible, of territorial disputes - the importance of mineral resources and the externally visible neighbors about the power of fear creating a sense, the policy is important, but
For now,
Rather than conflict and cooperation through the China-consuming products that will foster national policies that are deemed necessary. Of course, the income from them, I will. A lot of capital and technology to China, Indo-China Peninsula, the state is accumulated in the country than the lot of it, went shopping with a trip to a foreign, domestic investment in real estate and indirect costs, the rise, leading to a consumable resource, rather than toward the induction Investment What about that? To do so, through military superiority would be advantageous to preempt, but when the dispute sparked by the war, Asia is divided into two political regions and then, like a lot of investment in military yirueojyeoseo, welfare and national development budget will be consumed in the consuming castle inherent risks dabunhi been lost I think.

India's rapid development in this area have the potential to help significantly, but the India of their own territory and areas traditionally having yieojyeoseo strengthening ties with Third World countries, think of the possibilities to create a new boundary is . As competition evolves, the possibility of cooperation and the struggle must be thinking. In the third place as Africa,

Bottom line, India, China and Malaysia, Indonesia and the economic as a companion, thinking the settlement, while China, the internal problems are resolved unfortunate result that the easy story, but the reality, the difficulty is very little to get to know, just talking about this is .

Expect the development of Central Asia, but the scale and nature of these local consumption, rather than explosively, to its role as an intermediate warehouse that might be the scale is expected. For 3-4 years. Rather, the intensive development to the west of China, is in progress and I think that some local success. Development of the Central Asian region and its aftermath would be good for space to think. In Central Asia to Russia, you were going to have to compete invisible to expect a very consuming political and economic competition is going to be expected.

China's military power stronger than forces of Indochina, but if the war, and other forces in Indochina countries the situation is Touge balsaenghalgeogo, then, a significant bottleneck in the development of Asia, providing the Chinese Europe, Russia and the Indochina peninsula, the road that connects high-speed rail initiatives are also thought likely to be lost.

Outside of military superiority was also thought to notify the season, but now in Greece's economic crisis affecting the NY, so gloomy economic forecast likely to be announced, and China also 农民 工, and internal issues, economic management minor difficulties in the surface, there's a chance to appear in, personally, I think you dare. China's military is not strong, they know that. But now, the economy than the war, people in hunger to get away, to pursue a more important time for human life, I think. If it is difficult economy, people are really trying to address through the war, which is too typical, is not it? It's a dead-end passage of dialogue can not, if someone's job, I think more should be resolved through dialogue.

Difficult to achieved, 文化大革命 Beginning in, is achieved, economic and military achievements, I think it took almost 50 years now, come on back, to the war, 100% guaranteed to be complete victory for China, if, join me, but, Invisible technology is still very much believe that there is. rather than stealth, the other ................

Beijing's Public Security of the aggressive, proactive protection is so, so my tour in Beijing to ensure safe should think. Tiananmen Square, Tsinghua University and dark alleys alone, and travel safe, I am grateful also raises the heart. Do you read the read?

Thank You
to my safe tour in China. because of Sec`s interest making safe and i travels China not tourist`s course. i saw the so many normal China person. no doubt, criminal fear`s fear....

Thank You.

Puerto Rico
June 22, 2011

Ilia in Puerto Rico writes:

Blogging is the best mean to express views touching concisely the minds of millions in the world: that inhibited chatter cannot do.

It provides a new vision and liberalization of what freedom of expression is all about.


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