Twittering from China

You may have heard that this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is Liu Xiaobo, who is locked up and serving an 11-year prison sentence for political activism in China. His crimes include demanding political reform, human rights guarantees and an independent judicial system in his country, according to The New York Times.

Liu Xiaobo’s wife was allowed to visit him on Sunday. After she went home, she was placed under house arrest. She was not allowed to make or receive any phone calls.

But she was able to post on Twitter! She wrote about her meeting with Liu Xiaobo. Read or listen to the story here. It is interesting to see how many people are tweeting about Liu Xia — in German, French, Spanish, and many other languages!

Sadly, the whereabouts of Liu Xia, the wife of the Nobel laureate, are now unknown. She has disappeared. Or has she? This article from Tuesday (today) says she is still under house arrest in her home.

Update (Oct. 13): The video above is from Al Jazeera. Read their article.

All the fuss about the Google/Verizon proposal

Champions of Internet access and freedom protested loudly (and urgently) this week after Google and Verizon jointly proposed new ways to regulate the Internet. For a good summary of the issues, see A Review of Verizon and Google’s Net Neutrality Proposal, written by Cindy Cohn, the legal director and general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

What is “net neutrality”? The phrase generally refers to the idea that your Internet access provider should never give preferential treatment (such as faster speeds) to any Web site or Internet domain you try to visit. By the same token, an Internet access provider should never slow down (or otherwise impede) access to any sites or domains. Technically, providers are able to do these things. Legally, so far, they are not permitted to do them.

Why does this matter? Competition. Google, for example, would like you to watch videos on YouTube. NBC Universal, News Corp., and the Walt Disney Co. would like you to watch videos on Hulu. What if your Internet access provider (such as Verizon) made a cozy deal with, say, Google? The deal might mean YouTube videos always get maximum bandwidth (like turning on a water faucet full blast), but all other video sites get merely average bandwidth.

Common Cause defines net neutrality this way:

The principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they want, post their own content, and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service providers (ISPs).

Read more about net neutrality here.

The man behind WikiLeaks

Who is responsible for the site that caused a firestorm earlier this month over a leaked video?

The video showed soldiers in a U.S. Army helicopter in Iraq shooting at a group of men on the ground, killing a Reuters journalist and his driver. Reuters had reportedly been trying to get a copy of the video from the Pentagon ever since the shooting occurred in 2007.

Since its launch in December, 2006, WikiLeaks has posted more than 1.2 million documents totaling more than 10 million pages. It has published the operating manuals from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, NATO’s secret plan for the Afghan war, and inventories of US military materiel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read more at Mother Jones (April 6, 2010). Their story describes “the elusive yet single-minded public face of WikiLeaks,” a 30-something Australian with a taste for the dramatic.