UK: Martha Lane Fox salutes the power of the online individual at Amnesty internet event

Internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox gave a powerful speech tonight (6 June), applauding the power of the individual online, at an Amnesty International event examining the future of Internet Freedom.

The event, ‘Some People Think the Internet is a Bad Thing: The Struggle for Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace’, was globally webcast from Amnesty’s London HQ, sponsored by The Observer. It also featured Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, experts on web filtering and victims of Internet repression from around the world. The whole event can be watched online at www.amnesty.org.uk/webcast

Looking back at the ten years since she launched Lastminute.com, Martha Lane Fox said:

“One thing that has changed is the power of the individual.

“The power lies much more with the user and it’s an exciting if subtle shift.

“On a social level, there are hundreds of social networking sites but all of them give power back to the user.

“There is real potential for individuals to tell you the truth about what corporations are telling us.

“And politically, we are able to mass together like-minded groups of interest, just as this campaign has done, to effectively have a voice.

“The landscape looks different to 1997 but the fundamentals are still there – the tool that is the Internet is incredible and powerful.”

A new version of Amnesty’s http://irrepressible.info website was also unveiled at the event, featuring a news aggregator that will turn the site into an information hub for anyone interested in the future of Internet freedom. The event marks the first anniversary of irrepressible.info, an Amnesty International campaign to combat the repression of Internet users around the world, launched in The Observer in May 2006. The campaign seeks to harness the power of the Internet, mobilising web users to take action against governments who are censoring and blocking sites or imprisoning web users.

The event also heard from victims of Internet repression in Tunisia and China, and from Morten Sklar a lawyer who is taking Yahoo! to court in the USA for complicity in human rights violations against Chinese web users. Amnesty research has also found that companies like Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have been complict in suppressing freedom of speech in China by censoring web content, releasing personal data leading to arrest and providing filtering hardware.

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