The U.S. government is about to put US$30 million into efforts to break Internet censorship.
Or at least make it much more difficult for governments to keep their people from getting news and information unfiltered by government censors.
The Guardian reports today that the U.S. government will fund new technology aimed at breaking internet censorship in repressive regimes such as China and Iran.
Michael Posner, assistant Secretary of State for human rights, said projects will include “slingshot” technology that will identify censored material and throw it back on to the web for users to find.
“We’re responding with new tools. This is a cat-and-mouse game. We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the cat,” Posner said. Censored information would be redirected to email, blogs and other online sources, he said. He would not identify the recipients of funding for “reasons of security”.
The comments came after the U.S. and China held their regular Human Right Dialog.
Only in the past couple of years has the State Department begun to understand how technology can help in the promotion of American policy and human rights. The dynamic use of social media in the Arab Spring is the best and most recent example of why promotion of Internet (and by extension all media) freedom is important to all democracies. The U.S. State Department, for once, is trying to get ahead of the game by being very aggressive in its use of social media.
The big push for more social media use is coming from the top, specifically top advisor to Sect. Clinton’s Alec Ross (@AlecJRoss on Twitter). With more than 340,000 Twitter followers — that makes him #3 in U.S. government Tweeters — Ross is able to move ideas and issues around the globe quickly. Reportedly it was Ross who persuaded former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman to specifically seek out bloggers throughout China for discussions and interviews, and thereby bypassing the official Chinese media.
It will be interesting to see how the money is spent and how successful the project is.