#FSDLaunch

FSD standing for Free Speech Debate, which you can hear more about on the project’s website here.

The launch today was where I saw Jimmy Wales speak, and there’s much less worth mentioning than I expected. In general it descended into a discussion about the editorial policy of Wikipedia, which was interesting, and I guess relevant to the topic at hand of free speech in a digital age, but a lengthy discussion on whether the Captain of the sunken cruise ship, famous only for one event, warranted his own biography page or not seemed merely for amusement rather than any real point. Of much more significance was the issue of whether the page on Muhammed should include artistic depictions of him; whether Arabic Wikipedia should display information about homosexuality; and how they are to decide what’s a bona fide academic concept worthy of its own page.

It was naturally good to discover that the leader of the world’s largest ever encyclopedia falls unequivocally on the side of free speech, and in general he carries himself well. I couldn’t help but get the feeling, though, that for all his prestige and influence, there wasn’t the sign of a deep mind here that has spent months reading literature on rights and issues to do with expression. I guess what I mean is – I couldn’t imagine him breaking into a discussion of what rights are or why expression is so vital. However he got to believe it, though, we should be grateful for it. It inspired him to give us one of the web’s greatest gifts.

There was time for a few words on SOPA, of which all there is to say is that whilst we couldn’t see it from the UK, if you accessed Wikipedia from the US yesterday, you were apparently hyperlinked to a site which would help you find your Senator or House member’s number so you could contact them. 8 million US citizens clicked that link, and as of today 35 Senators have pledged to oppose SOPA, in contrast with a mere 5 two days ago. The switchboard in Congress crashed. Nobody can claim it didn’t work.

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