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Article by Ben Zevenbergen for TechDirt:
During the revolutions in the Arab World since December 2010, standing government's fates were determined partly by the ability of their people to communicate via online tools and mobile phones. Whenever an uprising started in a new territory, dictators and government officials scrambled to halt the ability for protestors to communicate in many different ways. Other governments looked on fearfully at how their colleagues were coping or failing to address the challenge posed by the internet, hoping to maybe learn a best-practice or two in digital repression.
The US Government and European Union were quick to respond with all sorts of plans to help the people fighting for reform. In speech after speech, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced large funds to be made available for online dissidents, resulting in projects such as the Digital Defenders Partnership. The EU responded with its own plan: a No Disconnect Strategy. Both approaches share the idea of supplying activists and bloggers with the tools to circumvent repression by governments. Another common feature is to engage US and EU companies to support the internet freedom efforts and to discourage the sale of surveillance technology to foreign villains. These initiatives may well end up in a cat-and-mouse game, though, where equipment or code developed to increase online freedom of dissidents only prompts cornered governments to react in more aggressive ways to silence dissent.
Unfortunately, these well-meant efforts are viewed skeptically (and with little credibility) by many, considering that efforts against Wikileaks continue to intensify, people are increasingly under threat of being disconnected, citizens are being illegally arrested and more and more public funds are being spent on such unreasonable restraints at home.