Essay question: Is the Internet more helpful to states for monitoring citizens, or for citizens to pressure their governments?
"The Internet is for everyone, but it won’t be if governments restrict access to it."
Vint Cerf, co-founder, Internet Society, and co-inventor of TCP/IP (Giacomello 2005, p.1)
We are now, irrespective of regimes or the general public, living in the information society with the unprecedented power that the Internet engenders. Thanks to its extraordinary influences, there have been drastic changes in various facets of life, especially in political realm. When people are displeased with their governments, the internet is a valuable tool for attaining news, discussing ideas and coordinating protests regardless of geographical distance (DuPont 2011). Hence it might be claimed that the Internet is more helpful for citizens to pressure their governments. However, in this essay I will argue that states can even take much more advantages of positive and negative consequences of the internet, and the exclusive privilege that only states possess: authority and legitimacy to monitor almost all activities and information of their citizens.
Firstly, governments manage online resources more efficiently than the general public do. Civic communities consider the Internet as a huge ocean of most up-to-date news for them to track no matter where they are and where the events occur. For instance, via Techweek (http://techweek.org) or Internet Society (http://isoc.org), Egyptians all over the world can follow the status of net services, the Egyptian government’s censorship and responses of people towards this blockage. Nevertheless, this kind of online participation is difficult to create difference or transformation (E. Katz and Rice 2002). According to UCLA study, while “45.6% of Internet users feel that the Internet helps people to better understand politics, only 29.3% of users feel that Internet use leads to people having greater political power” (E. Katz and Rice 2002, p.107). In Columbia, the facebook protest against the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been accused of meddling in Colombia’s domestic affairs, just attracted a few thousand people turning up on streets while the initial aim number had been up to fifty million people to rally worldwide (Morozov 2009). One more problem when people seek information on the Internet is “the distracting noise of the Internet – the gossip, pornography, and conspiracy theory (Morozov 2009)”. Because of free flow of information, netizens can access whatever they are keen on, including nonsense or rubbish snippets, which results in sex or violence abuse and distraction from the embryo of protests. This can lead to two situations. The first one is that governments will use these abuses as an excuse to censor or even shut down net services, for example, prior to the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square Protest, the Chinese government circulated new filtering so...