What if, one day you went to your computer only to find that the internet had been shut off? Not by a storm or some other extraordinary event but by the government with the intention to limit your knowledge and connection to other people. It is a scary thought and easily one of the biggest things that we take for granted as Americans. The freedoms that we have known all of our lives are looked at with envy by smaller counties with stricter government controls. Can we as Americans justify sitting idly by as foreign governments hold their people in a figurative stranglehold with the power they possess over internet access? The fact of the matter is we now live in an age of enhanced connectivity, giving the masses even more power and more resilience against oppressive regimes.
When examining the graph above you can see that a great deal of the world lives with the possibility of a government “shut down” of its inhabitant’s internet access. The internet has proven to be one of the greatest tools for social revolt on oppressive governments in this age. Such websites as twitter and Facebook have played significant roles in public protest of political oppression in counties like Syria, which had its internet access severed to cripple an impending social revolution just this past week. With Americas foreign policy, issues like this could prove be very sticky if we as a nation chose to interject on behalf of the people at large. I personally cannot see America intervening to fight for what should be peoples inherent right to interact and organize. Perhaps it is not up to the government of America to step in but the Americans themselves to give support to the oppressed, hopefully in a manner more meaningful than a Facebook page “like”.
I do not pretend to know what could be done in order to help tear down the barriers that keep people living in pseudo-slavery. Perhaps the issue at hand will be solved by time and the continued expansion of the internet and technology. It may not always be the government’s intention to keep a kill switch on the people’s internet access. Since America has an abundance of internet service providers, citizens needn’t worry about a government shutdown, however smaller/poorer countries are left with few ISP’s allowing for easy government manipulation.
One grey area that should be mentioned is what happens when these enhanced tools of mobilization, discussed in Markus Sabadello’s article, are used by nefarious organizations (as I’m sure they have before). The power to resist these governing systems could be a growing concern in years to come. If terrorist organizations or hate groups proceed with plots to overthrow their governments, it would be difficult for the powers that be to stop said groups. I do not see this as a big issue for large democratic societies like the United States. I don’t envision the KKK gaining the type of ground swell needed to destabilize the U.S. government any time soon. However, in smaller more volatile countries where the balance of power is in a constant state of flux, I could see certain factions using these tools to gain more power and control. I see this as a fringe concern in the grand scheme. The benefits of enhanced interconnectivity among citizens, free from government intervention, outweigh the potential hazards. It is encouraging that we now have the ability to have a countries’ fate decided by the majority of its citizens in the most direct way possible thanks to social media. Now, with new technologies people can organize to act upon what they feel they deserve as citizens and have a say in how their country is managed.
This is the wired article related to this topic: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/12/internet_plug/