To understand what the web has done for free speech, it’s necessary to think about how Natalya Gorbanevskaya and her fellow dissidents produced 65 issues of the samizdat publication Chronicle Of Current Events in the Soviet Union between 1968 and 1983.
In addition, it’s nice to imagine — as Clay Shirky did last week at the Guardian’s Activate conference — that dissidents hold a trump card: the absence of hubris. Power tends to make rulers “certain of what will happen next”, said Shirky. As a result, rulers “try fewer things” than dissidents, who excel in terms of creativity. Meanwhile, as Shirky argues, “the wiring of the population” is “complete to the first degree”. Even North Korea has a mobile phone network.