John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Governments and the internet

        Even though the internet does not stop bombs or regimes, it is interesting how countries now stop the internet and or cell phone service in a country when a demonstration or revolution takes place.  For example, the Libyan government, who owns the cell phone and internet service provider companies, shut off these services during the protests.  This is the same action that the Egyptian government tried to do which only incited the protestors.  Eventually the internet was successful in forcing President Hosni Mubarak out of power and it did so by putting alot of outside pressure on the Egyptian Government.

        So, is it true to think that the internet can topple a government?  This was not the case in Iran.  "But while the manic surrounding the manic Iran's Twitter Revolution helped to crystallize the main tenets of the doctrine, it did not beget those tenets ( The Net Delusion, p. 6)."  The Green movement, a group in favor of the opposing presidential canidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, used social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about their upset and corruption of the 2009 Iranian elections.  Even though social networking was used in Iran it was not effective in over throwing the corrupt government.  After the protests subsided, the Iranian government used the internet against the Green Movement.

        "Passport control officers at Tehran's airport asked Iranians living abroad if they had Facebook accounts; they would often double-check online, reagardless of the answer, and proceed to write down amy suspicious-looking online friends a traveler might have (The Net Delusion, p.11)." 
The Iranian government then came out with a statement that if people were caught with anti government based information on their Twitter or Facebook page's that they would be arrested and tried by the Judiciary. 


Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan president, has warned against the use of Facebook and 's security forces have arrested activists who've posted online about the Libyan revolution. 

        Out of the Iran revolution only a small percentage of people were using Twitter.  "98 percent of the most popular links shared on the site during that period were Iran-related.  It's just that the vast majority of them were not authored or retweeted by those in Iran" (The Net Delusion, p. 15 ).  According to Vahid Online, a prominent Iranian blogger and activist, said that many were led to believe falsely that Iranian people were also getting their news through Twitter."

        So if the number of people protesting online inside a country are a very few percentage and if the Iranian government was not toppled, then why has Libya for example shutdown the internet and arrested activists for anti government content on Facebook?  We could look at what is being transmitted but the real answer here is that the internet is causing external pressure from the mass media which is causing internal pressure in Libya.  Gaddafi is afraid of excessive pressure from outside forces and being toppled as what happened to President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.  So shutting down the internet and cell phone service from the Libyan government standpoint seems like part of the solution in quieting the news propaganda.


        "Bizarrely, the irresponsible Iran-related punditry in Washington allowed leaders in Beijing to build credible case for more internet censorship in China (The Net Delusion, p.13)." "On the contrary, most often it's just unthinking acceptance of conventional wisdom, which posits that since authoritarian governments are censoring the Internet, they must be really afraid of it.  Thus, according to this view, the very presence of a vibrant Internet culture greatly increases the odds that such regimes will collapse (The Net Delusion, p.21)."

        It is not that the internet is a weapon against tyranical regims and the promotion of Democracy, it is a way of spreading information.  Even if the information is not true, the damage can already be done once the information is distributed on the internet.  Since anything can be created and distributed on the internet, this is why the internet can be labeled as the perfect propaganda medium that any group, country, or person can use to spread it's message. 

        If Gandafi wants to react by shutting down the internet and making claims that social media is an imperliast conspiracy then let him.  It is just him reacting to the wide spread reach and power of the internet.  In the end, it is humerous how some countries will bad mouth the internet and yet at the same time use it to forward their own agendas! 

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