Why Free Speech Needs Free Culture

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If so I wonder whether it might be interesting to have a discussion - either separate session or a component within the same session - perhaps in conjunction with Ethan given the work that he funds... which might be called something like "Why Free Speech Needs Free Culture," or something. It would explore the limitations of commercial for-profit businesses and services when it comes to ensuring that spaces continue to exist around the world where free expression and privacy are truly possible. Not that the corporate principles for privacy and free expression aren't a good idea, of course they are. But I'd like to push the conversation further: at the end of the day if space for free speech and privacy are going to survive amidst so many pressures by governments on companies, do we need to make sure that there are plenty spaces for expression and communication around the world that are NOT commercial? Put another way, to what extent will the survival of free speech and privacy depend on the cultivation of vibrant non-commercial, grassroots spaces?

I gave an example of the problem during a talk I gave in Taipei in January: in China, people are increasingly finding that Web2.0 tools - blogs etc., have limited use when it comes to promoting provocative political ideas because Chinese Web2.0 services are cenored. So as Michael Anti pointed out in his talk to the Berkman Ctr last fall, people in China are turning back to 1.0 tools: e-mail and e-mail groups as the best way to disseminate provocative ideas. But there's a problem. Now that nobody trusts Yahoo for good reason and they can't trust Chinese e-mail providers and Hotmail isn't secure, everybody uses Gmail. But what if the Chinese government decides to block Gmail - if not permanently then at least during sensitive political times (like the June 4th anniversary or the Olympics)? Then there are no alternatives except PGP which nobody uses because it's too technically complicated for most people and also draws attention to its users. If Chinese activists wait around for other commercial alternatives to emerge, will they be waiting for a blue moon? Or do grassroots groups, NGO's and loose alliances of people need to get more proactive in creating alternatives for secure e-mail and low-tech electronic communications? Are we sometimes overly obsessed with Web2.0 that we forget how important it is to have solid and secure alternatives for the simplest forms of internet communication? Given what's going on in Congress and in Europe lately, maybe we need to be more concerned about these issues for U.S. and other Western users as well?