Washington D.C., USA – Major speech by Michael Posner

“This past year has highlighted the promise and the peril of the Internet as a transformative tool both for human expression and for repression. So I would like to look back at the lessons learned from the digital earthquake of 2011, and offer a few thoughts on the way forward.

It was almost exactly a year ago, on January 15, that Tunisian president Zine Ben Ali boarded a plane in Tunis with his family and departed for Saudi Arabia. Twenty-seven days later, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned. Eight months later, Moammar Gaddafi was gone. A month after that, Yemen’s President Saleh announced his resignation. Time Magazine named the “Protestor” as its Person of the Year in 2011.

The Arab Awakening has been like a geopolitical earthquake sending aftershocks rumbling around the world. Repressive regimes trembled at the power of people connected, and redoubled their attempts to crack down. They did it by jailing bloggers, hijacking Facebook pages, and, in the case of Iran, requiring cybercafés to install surveillance cameras. They managed to buy sophisticated technologies to sniff out digital dissidents and silence them.” Read more