Last week, Global Voices held a summit in Budapest, Hungary for its members and the wider community of bloggers, activists, technologists, journalists and others from around the world. Called the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008, the two day event focused on the topic of "Citizen Media & Citizenhood."
As David Sasaki notes, the summit was held to address questions such as:
Is social media actually changing the electoral landscape in emerging democracies like Armenia, Kenya, and Venezuela? Has the promise of an international, barrier-free, multilingual conversation finally become reality? Most importantly, where do we go from here? How do we encourage dialog in times of heated international debate? How do we bring new voices from new communities into the universe of web 2.0? And how do we protect their rights to free speech once they begin participating?
Attendees came from all over the world: Mauritania, Colombia, Bangladesh and Tajikistan, to name a few. Initial reports have been glowing. Check out Evgeny Morozov's insightful article on how the summit showcased "the radical democratisation of the global flow of ideas," as well as Joi Ito's blog about the importance of the summit as a response the "systemic bias against reporting international news in most developed nations."
Not surprisingly, the rise in popularity of blogs and citizen media more generally has also resulted in the legal actions and other threats, including physical harm, levied against bloggers. We have some examples of such threats and actions in our legal threats database (such as Singapore v. Nair, Mitchell v. Noel, and Egypt v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman), and our blog (see Saudi Blogger Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan Released and Opposition News Sites Blocked in Kazakhstan).
By all accounts, the Global Voices Summit was a rousing success. To me, the summit also highlights the need to remain vigilant in protecting the legal rights of those engaged in online speech so that citizen media throughout the world can continue to succeed and flourish.
(Note: Global Voices is a nonprofit founded at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which also hosts the Citizen Media Law Project. Ethan Zuckerman, the founder of Global Voices, is on the CMLP's Board Of Advisors.)