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PDF 2012 Theme: The Internet's New Political Power

BY Chris Wong | Tuesday, April 17 2012

For years now, it's been clear that the explosion of interactive and participatory networking enabled by the Internet and related technologies is enabling a powerful expansion of grassroots civic engagement. Recent events suggest, however, that perhaps a new power is emerging centered on the Internet itself. Already this year we've witnessed one of the most massively disruptive protests in history take place not just on the Internet but, in some sense, by the Internet. In the aftermath of that protest, the Internet has continued to exhibit significant influence over the political realm, and it's difficult to ignore the myriad ways these online demonstrations, and the consequences that flow from them, have spilled over into the physical world.

One critical point in this conversation is that the Internet itself is nonpartisan, and we're beginning to see all sides of the aisle reach out to the Internet constituency with an increasing sense of urgency. We're no longer talking about whether the Internet will change politics. Rather, the ubiquity of tools, tactics, and strategies that are aimed at harnessing political power on the Web seem to acknowledge that the Internet has something more to offer.

To be sure, we're still weaving the story about the public Internet; issues like universal access to affordable high-speed connectivity, freedom of speech, censorship, privacy and control remain highly unsettled.

But there's a new story materializing, and it's not just about the public Internet anymore. It's about what happens when enough people come to see the open and free Internet as part of their identity, and they act with it to defend it. It's about the Internet public — and what happens when that public starts getting political. Thus, we're pleased to announce that the theme for Personal Democracy Forum 2012 will be "The Internet's New Political Power."

We're, of course, still hard at work lining up speakers and fleshing out compelling panels and sub-themes, but it's not too late to let us know if you have an idea for a topic or speaker that you'd like us to consider. If you have a proposal, please email it to me at chris@personaldemocracy.com.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

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Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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