Emory International Law Review


Ryan Hal Budish


On May 20, 2012, in response to tweets about "blasphemous drawings," Pakistan blocked Twitter for eight hours before the Prime Minister intervened to restore access. During that period, hundreds of Pakistanis visited Herdict, a Harvard University project for tracking Internet censorship and web blockages, and filed numerous inaccessible reports, allowing us to see blockages in real time. Similarly, when China blocked The New York Times in late October 2012, in response to a story about the wealth of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Herdict received several inaccessible reports from China for the news site. These events epitomize the importance of projects that track the openness of the Internet. But just as importantly, these events are data points in an experiment. Herdict is premised on the belief that by asking people to complete a small, simple task'reporting if they can access a site'we can transform individuals into foot soldiers for Internet freedom, even if they do not see themselves as activists. Moreover, by making the task so small, these people can participate without assuming too much personal risk.