As the Revolution Goes Online, the Battle for the Internet Begins
In light of a new tussle between Google and the Chinese government, it’s an interesting time to consider the role of the internet in political mobilization, particularly in countries where such activity can result in a prison sentence, or worse. But what happens when the people and the regime battle over the Web itself?
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has learned that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. After calling for Internet controls, Chavez has jumped into the fray with a blog of his own to combat a dissenting Web presence. By all indications, that dissenting voice emanating from the worldwide blogosphere is growing increasingly louder.
Online protests have already been credited with stopping everything from Australian beachside development to legislation exempting parliamentary expenses from the Freedom of Information Act in the UK. Even the Canadian parliament’s Olympic hiatus saw an online "Get Back to Work" movement. But the idea of online political mobilization is really coming to a head elsewhere.
Much of the world saw the emerging role of technology in the wake of last year’s Iranian election, which resulted in a storm of online content streaming out of the country in what is now commonly known as the Twitter Revolution and YouTube Revolution. But that battle over the Internet in Iran goes as far back as 2004, when Iranian bloggers began openly blogging against the government’s media crackdown. But the aftermath of the 2009 battle saw the government fight back, stifling citizen journalists by allegedly jamming phone signals and network web sites. Before long, experts were saying that the optimistic bubble carrying this online mobilization had officially popped.
Despite a number of examples of online networks and even video games rallying people, the efficacy of this online revolution is still being debated. Especially as some governments flex their regulatory muscle. In fact, one writer, Evgeny Morozov, has written repeatedly about how the Internet has actually served to empower leaders more than the populace looking to topple them. "From 2006-08 I worked on western-funded internet projects in the former Soviet Union," Morozov said in a Prospect magazine article. "Our mission to use the internet to nudge citizens of authoritarian regimes to challenge the status quo had so many unexpected consequences that, at times, it seemed to be hurting the very causes we were trying to promote."
But Morozov’s take hasn’t halted online efforts to target certain regimes. Armed with digital cameras, Burmese reporters’ filmed a 2007 rebellion, leading to an Oscar nomination and widespread acclaim, although exactly how much change it created in Burma is open to interpretation. More recently, a widespread online campaign has targeted the Ugandan government over a proposed anti-homosexuality bill. Buddhists have even taken their issue with China to the web. In an interesting precedent, a Kyrgyzstan advocacy blog, Akaevu.net, has been cited in that country’s Tulip Revolution. A related study from the University of Kansas found that blogs were able to "serve to incite or sustain democratization in Third World countries, even those undergoing uneven economic development."
While the case of the Internet vs. the Authoritarian has been posited for some time, gauging its true effectiveness has become difficult. Burma, China, and Saudi Arabia have all found both traditional and innovative ways to quell online dissent. For the time being, the idea of the online uprising might be overblown.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.
- Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
- The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
- Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.
- In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
- This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
- Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.