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The ceremony of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize was filled with symbolism, as the award was placed in an empty chair as the recipient remained in prison for, as some say, expressing his civil rights. Liu Xiaobo embodies the pursuit of freedom within a communist system that by definition constrains personal freedom and realization of personal achievement. As I listened to coverage by PBS’s NewsHour, the role of technology in the realization of human rights came into focus. While the Chinese government “blocked television coverage of the event and clamped down on Internet communications referring to it, called the Nobel ceremony a “political farce” one outlet of personal expression persevered thanks to technology: Twitter messages. Chinese citizens could share their observations and opinions about this Nobel Peace Prize freely via Tweets.

This represents one more example of the use of technology to promote human rights. I recently wrote in The Human Rights Quarterly about several case studies, including the example of the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, in which Twitter played a key role in citizens documenting violations of voting procedures and allowed the expression of freedom. Granted, their voices did not affect the ultimate outcome of the election, but this use of technology, I believe, represents an important step forward.

I invite readers to share their view and examples of the use of science and technology to promote human rights.

Photo Credit: Utenriksdept’s Flickr photostream

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