It's been thrilling to watch the Green Revolution unfold on Twitter. It reminds me of those sweltering days of Tienanmen long ago. You see, back then there was a Chinese immigrant-owned business over on Church Avenue and the fax machine in the back groaned nonstop as it disgorged furtively-sent messages on curly-thermal parchment. Unofficial word of officially-banned events crept out of the top of the machine as a half-dozen men crowded around, anxious for news of home and breathless at each pause in the transmission. Every break in the traffic gave smoke-stained fingers the chance to tear off the latest pages, place them on the backup fax (connected to a telephone jack in an apartment upstairs by a hundred feet of frayed cord), and relay the fresh news on to another clutch of emigres in Boston, Honolulu, Vancouver.
Such was the Fax Americana. Technology in the service of information, democracy and freedom.
So here we are again, two decades later, watching voices from the other side of the globe cry out. And with each Tweet, it becomes more evident that the United States has outsourced the public face of its foreign policy to Silicon Valley. Of course, this is happening just as the bureaucrats in DC are contemplating a raft of regulations aimed at the types of firms that fund the companies that allow the administration to exercise soft power. Ironic, no?
There's even talk in some quarters of venture firms being tangled up in yet more onerous regulations targeted at firms that pose systemic risk to the financial system. Funny: the way I see it, the only systemic risk that Silicon Valley poses is to opacity and oppression everywhere.