This past week, “Vox” was released: it is new software for blogs designed to draw an even greater number of people to the medium. Now instead of the author’s thoughts being catapulted into cyberspace for anyone to see, a greater number of security features are offered for the more cautious (or self-conscious) author. Vox allows the author to control access to each post, in addition to determining who may read or add comments.

The idea is to bridge the divide between the blog and other forms of communication like instant messaging or emails, where there are intended recipients of the message. The hope is to generate some sense of security for bloggers who are concerned that their thoughts on an issue may not be suitable for a larger audience.

While privacy concerns for authors in the United States are certainly understandable, in other nations it can become an issue of much greater import. Over the past few months, China has created a bit of an online stir with its long-term detention of “subversives” attempting to harness the power of the blog. In all, nearly 85 bloggers from China are either in custody or in jail, serving average sentences of 3-5 years for expressing views contrary to the interests of the government.

Although China is widely regarded as one of the least-hospitable nations for bloggers, it is only one of many governments that view the web log as dangerous. Earlier this week, it was reported that website administrator, Andonis Tsipropoulos, was “arrested without prior notice…at his residence.” It is important to keep in mind that this website is not even a blog, but rather, a search engine for Greek blogs.

Mr. Tsipropoulos conveyed his thoughts on the detainment in an e-mail sent to the search engine’s listed members: “This is the first time ever that a search engine – a site collecting information on the web – has been associated with the content of a web log and sued for it. Never before has an offended individual in a democratic country resorted to a lawsuit of this kind till this very day, with the exception of repressive regimes. Most recent examples are Singapore and China. However, even in these cases the lawsuits were against the blog administator, and not a blog directory that collects information such as Blogme.”

So while people in the United States may be viewed as “turning inward” by adopting Vox to control access to blogs, the technology – and others like it – may some day be one of the few ways that individuals in other nations may make their thoughts known without fear of persecution. In an era of state censorship, limiting the target audience (while seemingly at odds with the intent of the message itself) may be one of the few viable options for those wishing to express a viewpoint deemed too controversial for general consumption.

[This post was written by Nathan Rodriguez, PBB Research Associate]

Originally posted October 20, 2006 at PolicyByBlog

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