Censorship: YouTube (up) down in Thailand, Veoh and Metacafe next – where will it end?

Remember the stories about YouTube being banned in various countries around the world? One of the most interesting cases was in Thailand, where after a long period when the Thai government blocked its citizens from accessing YouTube, the government lifted the block this week. It cited Google’s willingness to censor videos that insulted Thai royalty, though I believe Google had said it was willing to block this content months ago. Now tonight it’s reported that the Thai government has turned its attention to Veoh and Metacafe, two other video hosting sites. See Global Voices and the Committee to Protect Bloggers for reports.

How much more evidence do we need that when you cave to authoritarian demands, authority just makes more. What an awful precedent to set. I know that people more knowledgeable about Thailand assure critics that the Thai people themselves really do revere their king and want this censorship to be carried out, but since values are probably always arbitrary in the end, I reserve the right for mine to oppose such censorship anyway.

Allowing governments to silence unpopular voices is a bad idea for lots of reasons, not the least of which is this: people suffering at the hands of power must be supported in their efforts to contest that power, even if a large, other group of people would prefer that suffering to go on in silence.

See also the “self-discipline” pact signed by Yahoo and MSN in China this week, promising to report personal information on bloggers to the Chinese government on demand.

This stuff drives me nuts. What can we do about it? I’m try to do what I can to support the newly resurrected Committee to Protect Bloggers. Subscribe to their RSS feed, check out the “safer blogging” guides they link to and help spread the word. Everybody knows that injustices are less likely to occur the more light that’s shined on them.

You can also help expand the reach of voices online outside of the dominant groups allready being heard from. Check out what my friend Beth is doing right now – she’s in SE Asia training people to train others in video blogging. That’s awesome. If you can do things like that, that’s great – for the rest of us, we can support people like Beth.

The internet holds far too much potential for social change to let it go dark in some of the parts of the world where it’s needed the most. Everyone, everywhere who seeks freedom using new media deserves our support and no one deserves the threat of imprisonment for challenging power online.