October 3, 2008 in Writing
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October 3, 2008 · Writing

My take on Citizen Lab

Citizen Lab has been covered by pretty much every publication out there. Not much of a surprise — hackers battling internet censorship makes for a pretty exciting story. However, in spite of the heroification of these “net commandos”, there’s rarely a focus on the role that North America plays in all of it.

Anyone who opened their feed readers this morning probably saw the news that Skype is monitoring its Chinese users and storing messages that contain sensitive keywords. NYT has a great summary.

The research was done by UofT’s own Citizen Lab. But that’s not the cool part (well it is, but not the coolest for me).

Two weeks ago, I was able to interview both Ron Deibert and Nart Villeneuve for The Varsity. Unfortunately, the Skype report wasn’t quite ready yet so I had to promise not to mention it in my piece. Luckily, they had no shortage of other interesting things to say.

My piece was published on Tuesday in The Varsity Magazine’s Democracy Issue:

Citizen Lab has been covered by pretty much every publication out there. Not much of a surprise — hackers battling internet censorship makes for a pretty exciting story. However, in spite of the heroification of these “net commandos” (just one of many great descriptors given to them — see my piece for more), there’s rarely a focus on the role that North America plays in all of it. This Skype news is just the latest example.

Here’s an excerpt:

The media may have their facts straight, but they’re missing the point. The group’s endeavors, depicted as the superheroes of the information superhighway, obscure a key part of how such filtering actually takes place. North American technology firms often create the programs, search engines, and hardware that allows for filtering to happen in the first place.

To begin cracking apart this skewed coverage, take a look at the CBC. A particularly ambitious reporter attempted to rev up the footage for their piece by coaxing Citizen Lab members into participating in a protest. Any research for the story would have had to be done outside the CBC office, as CBC’s corporate Internet filters block psiphon.ca for being “anonymizing software.”

Go and have a read. I know it’s a bit unclear and rambly but cut me some slack — it’s my first big published piece.

Also, I plan to put the full text of my interview with Nart. There’s lots of good stuff that wasn’t able to make it into the piece.

 

This entry was written by Andrew Louis on October 3, 2008 and posted in Writing. It's tagged with , , , .