Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Recently in the Human Rights Category

A few weeks ago I was asked to make some remarks at the MIT-Harvard Conference on the Uyghur Human Rights Crisis. When the student organizer of the conference, Zuly Mamat, asked me to speak at the event, I wasn't sure what I would say because I'm definitely not an expert on this topic. But as I dove into researching what is happening to the Uyghur community in China, I realized that it connected to a lot of the themes I have run up against in my own work, particularly the importance of considering the ethical and social implications of technology early on in the design and development process. The Uyghur human rights crisis demonstrates how the technology we build, even with the best of intentions, may be used to surveil and harm people. Many of my activities these days are focused on the prevention of misuse of technology in the future, but it requires more than just bolting ethicists onto product teams - I think it involves a fundamental shift in our priorities and a redesign of the relationship of the humanities and social sciences with engineering and science in academia and society. As a starting point, I think it is critically important to facilitate conversations about this problem through events like this one. You can view the video of the event here and read my edited remarks below.


Edited transcript.

Hello, I'm Joi Ito, the Director of the MIT Media Lab. I'm probably the least informed about this topic of everyone here, so first of all, I'm very grateful to all of the people who have been working on this topic and for helping me get more informed. I'm broadly interested in human rights, its relationship with technology and our role as Harvard and MIT and academia in general to intervene in these types of situations. So I want to talk mainly about that.

One of the things to think about not just in this case, but also more broadly, is the role of technology in surveillance and human rights. In the talks today, we've heard about some specific examples of how technology is being used to surveil the Uyghur community in China, but I thought I'd talk about it a little more generally. I specifically want to address the continuing investment in and ascension of the engineering and sciences in the world through ventures like MIT's new College of Computing, in terms of their influence and the scale at which they're being deployed. I believe that thinking about the ethical aspects of these investments is essential.

I remember when J.J. Abrams, one of our Director's Fellows and a film director for those of you who don't know, visited the Media Lab. We have 500 or so ongoing projects at the Media Lab and he asked some of the students, "Do you do anything that involves things like war or surveillance or things that you know, harm people?" And all of the students said, "No, of course we don't do that kind of thing. We make technology for good." And then he said, "Well let me re-frame that question, can you imagine an evil villain in any of my shows or movies using anything here to do really terrible things?" And everybody went, "Yeah!"

What's important to understand is that most engineers and scientists are developing tools to try to help the world, whether it's trying to model the brains of children in order to increase the quality and the effectiveness of education, or using sensors to help farmers grow crops. But what most people don't spend enough time thinking about is the dual use nature of the technology - the fact that technology can easily be used in ways that the designer did not intend.

Now, I think there are a lot of arguments about whose job it is to think about how technology can be used in unexpected and harmful ways. If I took the faculty in the Media Lab and put them on a line where at one end, the faculty believe we should think about all the social implications before doing anything, and at the other end they believe we should just build stuff and society will figure it out, I think there would be a fairly even distribution along the line. I would say that at MIT that's also roughly true. My argument is that we actually have to think more about the social implications of technology before designing it. It's very hard to un-design things, and I'm not saying that it's an easy task, and I'm not saying that we have to get everything perfect, but I think that having a more coherent view of the world and these implications is tremendously important.

The Media Lab is a little over 30 years old, and I've been there for 8 years, but I was very involved in the early days of the Internet. The other day, I was describing to Susan Silbey, the current faculty chair at MIT, how when we were building the Internet we thought if we could just provide a voice to everyone, if we could just connect everyone together, we would have world peace. I really believed that when we started, and I was expressing to Susan how naïve I feel now that the Internet has become something that's more akin to the little girl in the Exorcist, for those of you who have seen the movie. But Susan, being an anthropologist and historian said, "Well when you guys talked about connecting everybody together, we knew. The social scientists knew that it was going to be a mess."

One of the really important things I learned from my conversation with Susan was the extent to which the humanities have thought about and fought about a lot of these things. History has taught us a lot of these things. I know that it's somewhat taboo to invoke Nazi Germany in too many conversations, but if you look at the data that was collected in Europe to support social services, much of it was later used by the Nazis to roundup and persecute the Jews. And it's not exactly the same situation, but a lot of the databases that we're creating to help poor and disadvantaged families are also being used by the immigration services to find and target people for deportation.

Even the databases and technology that we use and create for the best of intentions can be subverted depending on who's in charge. So thinking about these systems is tremendously important. At MIT, we are, and I think that Zuly mentioned some of the specifics, working with tech companies that are working directly on surveillance technology or are in some way creating technologies that could be used for surveillance in China. Again thinking about the ethical issues is very important. I will point out that there are whole disciplines that work in this, STS, science technology in society, that's really what they do. They think about the impact of science and technology in society. They think about it in a historical context and provide us with a framework for thinking about these things. Thinking about how to integrate anthropology and STS into both the curriculum and the research at MIT is tremendously important.

The other thing to think about is allowing engineers more freedom to explore the application and impact of their work. One of the problems with scholarship is that many researchers don't have the freedom to fully test their hypotheses. For example, in January, Eric Topol tweeted about his paper that showed that of the 15 most impactful machine learning and medicine papers that had been published, none of them had been clinically validated. Many cases, in machine learning, you get some data, you tweak it and you get a very high effectiveness and then you walk away. Then the clinicians come in and they say "oh, but we can't replicate this, and we don't have the expertise" or "we tried it but it doesn't seem to work in practice." We're not providing, if you're following an academic path, the proper incentives for the computer scientists to integrate with and work closely with the clinicians in the field. One of the other challenges that we have is that our reward systems and the incentives that are in place don't encourage technologists to explore the social implications of the tech they produce. When this is the case, you fall a little bit short of actually getting to the question, "well, what does this actually mean?"

I co-teach a course at Harvard Law School called the Applied Challenges in Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence, and through that class we've explored some research that considers the ethical and social impact of AI. To give you an example, one Media Lab project that we discussed was looking at risk scores used by the criminal justice system for sentencing and pre-trial assessments and bail. The project team initially thought "oh, we could just use a blockchain to verify the data and make the whole criminal sentencing system more efficient." But as the team started looking into it, they realized that the whole criminal justice system was somewhat broken. And as they started going deeper and deeper into the problem, they realized that while these prediction systems were making policing and judging possibly more efficient, they were also taking power away from the predictee and giving it to the predictor.

Basically, these automated systems were saying "okay, if you happen to live in this zip code, you will have a higher recidivism rate." But in reality, rearrest has more to do with policing and policy and the courts than it does with the criminality of the individual. By saying that this risk score can accurately predict how likely it is that this person will commit another crime, you're attributing the agency to the individual when actually much of the agency lies with the system. And by focusing on making the prediction tool more accurate, you end up ignoring existing weaknesses and biases in the overall justice system and the cause of those weaknesses. It's reminiscent of Caley Horan's writing on the history of insurance and redlining. She looks at the way in which insurance pricing, called actuarial fairness, became a legitimate way to use math to discriminate against people and how it took the debate away from the feminists and the civil rights leaders and made it an argument about the accuracy of algorithms.

The researchers who were trying to improve the criminal risk scoring system have completely pivoted to recommending that we stop using automated decision making in criminal justice. Instead they think we should use technology to look at the long term effects of policies in the criminal justice system and not to predict the criminality of individuals.

But this outcome is not common. I find that whether we're talking about tenure cases or publications or funding, we don't typically allow our researchers to end up in places that contradict the fundamental place where they started. So I think that's another thing that's really important. How do we create both research and curricular opportunities for people to explore their initial assumptions and hypotheses? As we think about this and this conversation, we should ask "how can we integrate this into our educational system?" Our academic process is really important and I love that we have scholars that are working on this, but how we bring this mentality to engineers and scientists is something that I'd love to think about and maybe in the Breakout Sessions we can work on that.

Now I want to pivot a little bit and talk about the role of academia in the Uyghur crisis. I know there are people who view this meeting as provocative or political and it reminds me of the March for Science that we had several years ago. I gave a talk at the first March for Science. Before the talk, when I was at a dinner table with a bunch of faculty (I won't name the faculty), someone said, "Why are you doing that? It's very political. We try not to be political, we're just scientists." And I said, "Well when it becomes political to tell the truth, when being supportive of climate science is political, when trying to support fundamental scientific research is political, then I'm political." So I don't want to be partisan, but I think if the truth is political, then I think we need to be political.

And this is not a new concept. If you look at the history of MIT, or just the history of academic freedom (there's the Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure) you will find a bunch of interesting MIT history. In the late 40s and 50s, during the McCarthy period, society was going after communists and left wing people out of the fear of Communism. And many institutions were turning over their left wing Marxist academics, or firing them under pressure from the government. But MIT was quite good about protecting their Marxist affiliated faculty, and there's a very famous case that shows this. Dirk Struik, a math professor at MIT, was indicted by the Middlesex grand jury on charges of advocating the overthrow of the US and Massachusetts governments in 1951. At the time MIT suspended him with pay, but once the court abandoned the case due to lack of evidence and the fact that states shouldn't be ruling on this type of charge, MIT reinstated Professor Struik. This is a quote from the president at the time, James Killian about the incident.

"MIT believes that its faculty, as long as its members abide by the law, maintain the dignity and responsibility of their position, must be free to inquire, to challenge and to doubt in their search for what is true and good. They must be free to examine controversial matters, to reach conclusions of their own, to criticize and be criticized, and only through such unqualified freedom of thought and investigation can an educational institution, especially one dealing with science, perform its function of seeking truth."

Many of you may wonder why we have tenure at universities. We have tenure to protect our ability to question authority, to speak the truth and to really say what we think without fear of retribution.

There's another important case that demonstrates MIT's willingness to protect its faculty and students. In the early 1990s, MIT and a bunch of Ivy League schools came up with this idea to provide financial aid for low income students on a need basis. The Ivy League schools got together to coordinate on how they would assess need and how they would figure out how much financial aid to give to students. Weirdly, the United States government sued the Ivy League schools saying that this was an antitrust case, which was ridiculous because it was a charity. Most of the other universities caved in after this lawsuit, but Chuck Vest the president at the time said, "MIT has a long history of admitting students based on merit and a tradition of ensuring these students full financial aid." He refused to deny students financial aid, and a multi-year lawsuit ensued, in which eventually MIT won. And then this need-based scholarship system was enshrined in actual policy in the United States.

Many of the people who are here at MIT today probably don't remember this, but there's a great documentary film that shows MIT students and faculty literally clashing with police on these streets in an anti-Vietnam War protest 50 years ago. So in the not so distant past, MIT has been a very political place when it meant protecting our freedom to speak up.

More recently, I personally experienced this support for academic freedom. When Chelsea Manning's fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School was rescinded, she emailed me and asked if she could speak at the Media Lab. I was thinking about it, and I asked the administration what they thought, and they thought it was a terrible idea. And when they told me that I said, "You know, now that means I have to invite her." I remember our Provost Marty saying, "I know." And that's what I think is wonderful about being here at MIT: the fact that the administration understands that faculty must be allowed to act independently of the Institute. Another example is when the administration was deciding what to do about funding from Saudi Arabia. The administration released a report, which has a few critics, that basically said, "we're going to let people decide what they want to do." I think each group or faculty member at MIT is permitted to make their own decision about whether to accept funding from Saudi Arabia. MIT, in my experience, has always stood by the academic freedom of whatever unit at the Institute that's trying to do what it wants to do.

I think we're in a very privileged place and I think that it's not only our freedom, but our obligation to speak up. It's also our responsibility to fight for the academic freedom of people in our community as well as people in other communities, and provide leadership. I really do want to thank the organizers of this conference for doing that. I think it's very bold, but I think it's very becoming of both MIT and Harvard. I read a very disturbing report from Human Rights Watch that talked about how Chinese scholars overseas are starting to have difficulties in speaking up, which I think is somewhat unprecedented because of the capabilities of today's technology. And I think there are similar reports about scholars from Saudi Arabia. The ability of these countries to surveil their citizens overseas and impinge on their academic freedom is a tremendously important topic to discuss, and think about both technically, legally and otherwise. I think it's also a very important thing for us to talk about how to protect the freedoms of students studying here.

Thank you again for making this topic now very front of mind for me. On the panel I'd love to try to describe some concrete steps that we can take to continue to protect this freedom that we have. Thank you.

Credits

Transcription and editing: Samantha Bates

I first met Jamila when she and her associate Alia reached out to us after we posted a video on Civil Disobedience inspired by and citing Gene Sharp. Jamila is the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution that Gene Sharp founded to focus on understanding and spreading his methods for non-violent action. We had a conversation about this with Tenzin Priyadarshi - the video is here (Sorry about the poor audio quality).

After talking to Jamila some more, it was clear that she inspired many of us and we could learn a lot from her. In addition, it seemed that many of our technologies could be useful for her in her works so I invited her to join the Lab initially as a research affiliate.

Recently, I asked her to give a talk and have a conversation with the Lab and myself. This is a video of the talk. Audio of the talk and conversation are available on iTunes and SoundCloud.

I'll be going to New York for this:

2nd Annual Benefit for WITNESS, Dec. 11, 2006, NYC

FOCUS FOR CHANGE
The Second Annual Dinner and Concert to Benefit WITNESS
Co-Hosted by WITNESS Founder Peter Gabriel and Gael Garcia Bernal
Performances by Paul Simon, Angélique Kidjo and Kate Pierson & Fred Schneider of the B-52's

TO PURCHASE TICKETS OR TABLES online click here. For more information or to order tickets by phone call (718) 783-2000 ext. 304; To order by e-mail events@witness.org. Pricing is below.

Click here to download an invitation.

Last year was a blast. This was the most fun I had last year while doing something for positive for human rights. It should be an amazing event this year too. We still have seats available so if you're interested, please sign up and pass it on to your friends.

WITNESS and Global Voices Online just launched the Human Rights Video Hub Pilot. WITNESS has been working for years on enpowering people to make documentaries about human rights issues. Global Voices has been working, initially mostly through blogs, to provide voice to people around the world. This new project is great collaboration between the two projects, bringing the power of video expression to even more people through an online video hub.

I am involved in WITNESS as a recently appointed board member and Global Voices as one of the founding participants. We've been talking about and working on the various unique issues involved in setting up a hub like this for awhile now and it is great to see the first step launched.

Yay!

(Post on Global Voices | Post on WITNESS )

Ever since I met Gillian Caldwell the executive director of WITNESS in 2003 I've been fascinated with their work. WITNESS is is an organization that "partners with human rights defenders, training them to use video to document abuse and create change".

Witness Mission Statement

WITNESS advances human rights advocacy through the use of video and communications technology. In partnership with more than 150 non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in 50 countries, WITNESS strengthens grassroots movements for change by providing video technology and assisting its partners to use video as evidence before courts and the United Nations, as a tool for public education, and as a deterrent to further abuse. WITNESS also gives local groups a global voice by distributing their video to the media and on the Internet, and by helping to educate and activate an international audience around their causes.
I'd been talking to Gillian about using the Internet and blogs more for their work and last year we set up a TypePad blog for her when she went to Sierra Leone with Angelina Jolie to deliver recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) to the government. The blog was a big success. Since then, I had been trying to provide advice and support and recently they allowed me to join their board. I'm very excited to be working with them and any thoughts on how we can make WITNESS better would be greatly appreciated!

Dec505 Gala Frontcvr-1
Last night Mizuka and I attended the Focus For Change gala benefit for WITNESS in NYC hosted by Peter Gabriel and Angelina Jolie. I first became interested in WITNESS when I met Gillian Caldwell the Executive Director in Davos in 2004. I started talking to her about blogging then. I helped Gillian get her blog set up when she and Angelina Jolie were headed off to Sierra Leone to deliver the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations to the government in May. The blog was a success. We've been talking about other ways to use the Net. She invited me to attend the Gala last night which was an amazing event.

The videos and comments from Peter Gabriel, Angelina Jolie and Gillian were awesome and inspiring. However, the main event for me was Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. He talked about how his life started as a happy kid who played soccer in the streets. As the war swept across the country, he survived the loss of his family and fled from village to village as he watched them being ravaged by the war. He eventually ended up being recruited as a child soldier. He was able to leave the military and attended college and appear before us last night to express his hope for lasting peace in Sierra Leone. It was an extremely well delivered and moving speech and really highlighted the strength of the words of a witness.

The festivities were also great. There were a number of great performances, but my favorite part was when Nile Rodgers and CHIC rocked the house with their classics. They did an auction with some pretty cool things. The only thing I bid on was the Nano programmed by Lou Reed, but I wasn't able to keep up and didn't get it in the end. ;-)

In total, the event was the best fund-raiser gala sort of event that I've ever attended. It had a clear and moving message and vision, it was fun and it was extremely well executed. Congratulates to everyone involved.

By

Just read the newly crafted elevator pitch for Benetech in a letter from Jim Fruchterman, the CEO, Chairman and Founder.

His pitch:

Benetech creates technology that serves humanity by blending social conscience with Silicon Valley expertise. We build innovative solutions that have lasting impact on critical needs around the world.
Webcams and other digital communication could give ordinary people feedback on results acheived due to donation of their money and time.

This would give the power of oversight formerly reserved for wealthy philanthropists.

Does this hint toward disruptive digital technology underming the NGO world with individualized philanthropy that cuts out the middle men?

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Tech editor of the International Herald Tribune seems open to publishing a column of blog-generated ideas.

I need topics of interest our newspaper's readers (wealthy global audience of frequent travelers with diverse interests in politics, economic and culture).

Conversations on this blog that might work have included my postings on Global Sociology of Online Shopping or Joi's post on ideas for new inflight software.

Input welcome on:

Layout - should it be in blog-style or reworked into a newspaper format. I tend to prefer reworking it, but my editor liked the idea of experimenting with a new formatting that might resemble an online chat.

Topics - Ideas for topics that would get the best response and interest our readers. I prefer things that are less about tech-issues than about ideas that may relate to technology.

Writing form - should it be written from a blog or could it be compiled on a wiki-style platform? This would require me to lay out the format and ask for people to help filling it in, but if someone has some appropriate social software platform, it might be fun to test the concept.

Online communities - A futher thought on the above concept is that it may be fun to involve specific online communities in writing guest columns. This would mean asking for the communities - friendster, asmallworld, openbc or another one. The idea would best to use a community with a particular purpose or outlook rather than a generic one. That would allow us to explore how these communities are different. Anyone senior enough at one of these communities should feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Three questions regarding the Committee to Protect Journalists today naming online journalist Shi Tao as a winner of the International Press Freedom Award.

His 10-year sentence to a Chinese prison came partly due to a disclosure about him by Yahoo!.

1- Do employees of Yahoo! feel responsible for/comfortable with this man going to prison? (Will they, for example, send care packages or join a letter-writing campaign petitioning the government of China for his release?)

2- How do users of Yahoo! feel about the company's privacy policies? (Or privacy policies of other Internet companies, for that matter.)

3- As a journalist who has had many police encounters in countries with nasty authoritarian dictatorships, I am always very concerned about the safety of those with whom I interact. Does online interaction lead to a sense of diminished responsibility? Do we need to see someone's face or visit their family at home to feel their pain?

BBC
US teens 'reject' key freedoms

A significant number of US high-school students regard their constitutional right to freedom of speech as excessive, according to a new survey.

Over a third of the 100,000 students questioned felt the First Amendment went "too far" in guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, worship and assembly.

Only half felt newspapers should be allowed to publish stories that did not have the government's approval.

It's a bit scary when "normal" shifts like this.

Here is an old Encyclopedia Britannica Films video clip from 1946 (I think) about despotism that they showed to children in schools. Amazing how things have changed. I wonder what kids would think now watching this clip.

Via Greg Elin

Posted by Thomas Crampton

North Korea, exaulted member of George W. Bush's axis of evil, just invited me to a festival, but I don't think I can make it.

I have, however, attended three previous Kim Jong Il birthday party.

Based on my experience, I can say that Pyongyang shows a declining level of party sense.

The first I attended was the snazzy party at the Hong Kong jockey club in 2002

The pretty fancy birthday party in 2003

And the distinctly downmarket event party in 2005 (terrible wine!)

For the record, I crashed the party each time. The North Korean government didn't seem to like publicity about their luxury birthday parties while people were starved back at home.

Below is the invite to the festival in North Korea which includes 100,000 people in a synchronized dance!!

INVITATION TO "ARIRANG PERFORMANCE"

The grand mass gymnastic and artistic performance "Arirang" which was premiered on August 16 is going on before full audience at the May Day Stadium with capacity of 150, 000 in Pyongyang. A stream of working people of all walks of life in the capital and other parts of the country as well as the tourists from the all over the world is coming to the stadium to appreciate the performance. The current "Arirang" which depicts the Korean history, fully reflects the eight beautiful sceneries with a flawless masterpiece for the combination of music, dances, gymnastics and acrobatics consistent with deep national emotions and high artistic skills, rhythmic background scenes, peculiar stage settings, electronic displays, laser lightings and other representation means and elements. About 100,000 people consist of world prize laureates, skilled artists, acrobats, youth, students and children are participating in the performance.

After appreciating the performance, people do not stint their praise, saying that it makes them feel national pride.

More than 800,000 of Korean people at home and abroad and foreigners have seen the performance since its premiere.

It will go on until 17th of October except Sundays. In addition to enjoy the performance you will be also able to visit the historical places arranged by the travel agencies in Korea.

The cost of the performance
Special seat 300 USD
First standard 150 USD
Second standard 100 USD
Third standard 50 USD

The cost of the accommodation and the lodgings for 1 day (inclusive of local transportation, guide fee, sightseeing fee)

1 person 150 Euro
2-5 people group 116 Euro
6-9 people group 68 Euro
over 10 people 55 Euro

The duration of stay (Optional)
2 nights and 3 days
3 nights and 4 days

If you are interested please don't hesitate to send us your personal data and visa will be issued within 3 days after your application. Please don't miss the rare chance.

The Consulate General of DPR Korea

Hoder, our favorite Iranian blogger is going back to Iran. He needs our help to get there as well as possibly keep him out or get him out of jail. See his blog for details.

For those of you who haven't been following Gillian's blog that I blogged about earlier, their trip to Sierra Leone was successful and Gillian has done a nice job capturing the trip on her blog. Congratulations Gillian and Angelina and everyone else who was involved! Gillian says she's going to continue blogging. Yay!

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Gillian Caldwell, the executive director of WITNESS just left for Sierra Leone with Angelina Jolie to deliver recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) to the government. WITNESS is an important effort using video for human rights advocacy. (I blogged about it in more detail in Sept 2003.) In Davos in 2004, Ethan and I cornered Gillian and tried to get her into blogging. At the same time Ethan and Gillian tried to get me interested in Africa. (Since then I've been to Africa once and have two more trips planned this year. Note that Ethan is the key connector here.)

Last week, Gillian emailed me and told me that she was going to blog this trip. With a bit of scurrying around and some quick design help from Boris, Gillian got her blog running just as she was running out the door. I'm looking forward to reading her reports from Africa and hope that she gets addicted to blogging so I can live her amazing life vicariously through the blog.

Safe travels and congratulations on the blog Gillian.

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Atochastation
Atocha Station
Joshua Ramo who was moderating a panel at the Atocha summit asked the question, is the world more democratic since 9/11. Clearly most people thought no. One person in the audience stepped up and said that the elections in Iraq were a good sign and that Iraq was more democratic. A young man from Iraq jumped in and said that he didn't believe that the elections had made Iraq more democratic citing the low turnout and the problems they were having getting started. Then a young Iraqi woman who was working on monitoring elections jumped in and said that she believed it was getting more democratic and that it would take time and people had to be patient. What was striking was the passion that both of these young Iraqi's had and the strength of their words which were based on experience rather than analysis or speculation.

One of the problems with the question about whether the world is more democratic or not is that it is very difficult to measure and the word "democratic" has so many meanings and is ill-defined. What is more interesting, which Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch pointed out was to talk about human rights. He made the point that the Bush administration talks about liberty, freedom and democracy, but avoids talking about human rights. Liberty, freedom and democracy are very fuzzy words, but human rights is very specific. It would be easy to define terrorism as attacks against human rights and international humanitarian law forbids attacks against innocent non-combatants which is often the definition used for terrorism. Roth points out that the US has a terrible position on human rights in the name of the war on terror. He pointed out that Alberto Gonzales told the Senate committee the Senate Convention Against Torture treaty doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics, which makes the US the only country which is not upholding the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a matter of official policy. How can a country which is not upholding basic human rights expect to be respected and supported internationally?

One of the people in the audience mentioned that it was too easy to waste time Bush bashing and maybe there was a bit too much of that. However, someone noted that at yesterday's summit only George Soros criticized George Bush by name.

Kofi Annan is speaking now. He says that terrorism is a direct attack on human rights and the rule of law. If we destroy human rights and rule of law in the response to terrorism, they have won. Many responses to terrorism, even by those among members of the UN damage human rights. Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with fighting terrorism, it is essential. He is going to work on UN guidelines to responding to terrorism while following International human rights guidelines.

UPDATE: full text of speech. via Alvy

Dan Gillmor
Iran's Net Censorship
Hoder points me to "Stop Censoring Us" -- a site about the increasing level of government intervention in what was emerging as relatively free speech in Iran. I'm not sure what individuals outside Iran can do about this except to offer support to the Iranians who want to speak their minds.
I once sat next to a guy from Sun Federal, a Sun Microsystems subsidiary, who was on his way back from selling a filtering system to a government. I think that most of this censorship technology is built in the US. I guess it makes sense, but it's interesting that there is very little discussion about this. (At least as far as I know...)

I'm sure most people have seen it, but the full Red Cross report on Iraqi Prisoner Abuse is online on Cryptome.

Red Cross Report on Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

Japan Today
N Korea's Kim criticized at home for apology to Japan

Friday, May 7, 2004 at 04:00 JST

WASHINGTON — North Korean military hardliners have been critical of leader Kim Jong Il for apologizing to Japan for the abduction of Japanese nationals, a U.S. expert who visited North Korea in April said.

This makes it difficult for the North Korean leader to make a decision to break the impasse over the abduction issue with Japan, said Selig Harrison, Asian project director at the Washington-based Center for International Policy. He said the hardliners were angry because they think North Korea should never apologize to Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. (Kyodo News)

Thank you Kim Jong Il. Japan has done many things that I think requires apologies, but the abductions of Japanese by the North Koreas is an issue that I believe required an apology. I think this is a important first step, even if it is causing him some grief at home. I'm not sure what these means from a diplomatic tactics perspective, but I think Kim Jong Il deserves some credit on this one.

Pakistani council aproves rape to avenge honour. "A village council in Pakistan permitted a landlord to rape the sister and sister-in-law of a man he accused of an illicit relationship with his daughter, police said Thursday. (...) The council members, all of them landlords themselves, ruled that Ghaffar, who uses only one name, could avenge his honour by having sex with the farmer's daughter, who is 16, and daughter-in-law, who is 22." (BBC version here). "An estimated 80 percent of women prisoners in Pakistan are in jail because they failed to prove rape charges".
This is totally disgusting. Is my blog becoming depressing lately, or is it just the state of the world?

NKzone, the North Korean blog needs citizen bloggers to cover the Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) in Tokyo on Feb 22 and two human rights events in Seoul on Feb 23. If you're available, please help us out.