Techno-activism: Why tools matter

Will technology make us freer? Cory Doctorow has a nice little article about the role of Free Software as a tool for social activism. In particular, he’s writing about why it’s important that the tools we use for activism should be free:

Herein lies the difference between a ‘‘technology activist’’ and ‘‘an activist who uses technology’’ – the former prioritizes tools that are safe for their users; the latter prioritizes tools that accomplish some activist goal. The trick for technology activists is to help activists who use technology to appreciate the hidden risks and help them find or make better tools. That is, to be pessimists and optimists: without expert collaboration, activists might put themselves at risk with poor technology choices; with collaboration, activists can use technology to outmaneuver autocrats, totalitarians, and thugs.

The text makes it pretty clear why Facebook is horribly ill-suited to social activism. It also reminds me of Malcom Gladwell’s argument from October 2010 that the revolution will not be tweeted.