What the internet, and social media, can and can't do.

Posted: 09 Feb 2010   Print   Send a link
"Internationally, the new emphasis on enabling the skirting of Internet censorship amounts to a shift from traditional public diplomacy to a kind of Internet democracy activism. Where the former relied on tools such as Voice of America radio broadcasts to all corners of the globe, the latter emphasizes the U.S. promoting indigenous voice in countries that curb free speech, says NYU telecommunications professor Clay Shirky, adding that enabling citizens to express themselves 'is way more threatening than Voice of America-style broadcasts, and autocratic governments will react to that.' Thus far, authoritarian governments have largely managed to control the Internet in their countries, argues Hal Roberts, a researcher with Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. 'Actually I think the story of the first 15 years of the widespread use of the Internet is that it is deeply embedded with local mechanisms of control and that governments can control the Internet pretty well,' he says. That's only likely to change if the U.S. is willing to match the new inspirational rhetoric about Internet freedom with actions that could be deemed hostile by the regimes concerned." Ken Stier, Time, 6 February 2010. It's great that citizens are expressing themselves, but this is no substitute for the journalism (not public diplomacy) that has always been VOA's mainstay. Furthermore, when the internet, which involves landlines within the target country, is censored, VOA can drop in wirelessly via shortwave and satellite.
     Proposal to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the internet. AP, 2 February 2010.
     "The Voice of America Twitter isn't: commitment to world peace does not rank high on the list of Twitter's objectives (for all the good reasons — they are in the business of making money, after all — leave the world peace to Bono). Don't we want to award this prize to someone who at least WANTS a more democratic and peaceful future and WORKS towards it?" Evgeny Morozov, Foreign Policy, 8 February 2010.
     "[W]hile greater connectivity and the spread of Internet access can be hugely beneficial to the spread of democracy, there is also a flip side – extremist groups and authoritarian regimes will increasingly co-opt and manipulate new technology for their own end." Luke Allnutt, editor in chief of RFE/RL's English website, Christian Science Monitor, 8 February 2010.
     "I’m going to take the stand that social media sometimes just doesn’t matter, and in fact, may be just be a waste of time and effort. Just because it’s out there, doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile, and I’ll point to the Singapore Airshow as an example. ... Sure, it gives it a little buzz by having a lot of social media presence, I guess, but what benefit is it providing? ... 'CNBC Asia was broadcasting on site and had a “lively” guest blog going.' ... Forget about the fact that the 'lively' guest blog actually just has three posts... Will all this social media drive any aircraft, engine, or part orders? Will it help suppliers establish better relationships with key decision makers? I imagine the answer is a resounding no." Brett Snyder, BNET, 8 February 2010.