Rebecca MacKinnon

Co-founder, Global Voices Online

East meets West
37 minutes, 17.3mb, recorded 2005-10-21
Rebecca MacKinnon
China is experiencing an upsurge in democracy. Instead of electing their next president, however, they are voting for their favorite blogs, the best MP3 music track, and the cutest Asian pop stars. Internet technology has hit the Chinese mainstream and it is changing communication, education, and entertainment in amazing ways. Rebecca MacKinnon believes that the Chinese government is actively encouraging this growth by spending millions of dollars to improve Internet and mobile infrastructure.

One example of the impact of the Internet in China is the replacement of the traditional model of content creation and distribution by user-generated content and peer-based evaluation. As MacKinnon points out, in the old system all content was approved by Communist Party gatekeepers. The result of this change is an empowerment of Chinese people, including an explosion of new media entrepreneurs such as journalists, bloggers, and musicians.

Yet, as MacKinnon points out, China maintains control by censoring sensitive political and religious content. Bloggers are required to register with the government, and are restricted from posting certain keywords or linking to unapproved web sites. The censorship is built into publishing software, allowing consumers to publish freely without worrying about repercussions since all the filtering is done for them. Even with these restrictions, Chinese blogs are expanding in numbers that are driving the global growth of blogs.

As other governments see the success enjoyed by the Chinese in increasing, while maintaing control over, the technological development in their nation, MacKinnon wonders whether this will herald a change in the Internet of the future and a challenge to the freedom upon which it is built.

Rebecca MacKinnon is a Research Fellow at the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where she is co-founder of the online citizens media project, Global Voices Online. She speaks and writes frequently on global participatory media as well as on issues related to the Internet in China. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Rebecca worked for CNN in Northeast Asia for over a decade, serving as CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 1998-2001 and as Tokyo Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 2001-03. She has also covered major news events in North and South Korea, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Before joining CNN in Beijing in 1992, Rebecca was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan, where she also worked as a freelance journalist for a number of publications, including Newsweek. Originally from Tempe, Arizona, Rebecca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, where she majored in Government with a focus on international relations.


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