RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin on social media and democracy (updated).

Posted: 25 Apr 2010   Print   Send a link
USA Today, 23 Apr 2010, RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin: "[O]ur thinking about social media and democracy movements needs a reset. ... [The Iranian] regime achieved battlefield dominance in the technosphere over the past year. Iranian authorities have used a range of technologies to block, surveil and infiltrate social media. ... Through disinformation, it seems, Iranian intelligence services were able to disband demonstrations before protesters ever arrived on the scene. ... Twitter (or its next variant) will continue to bring protesters to the town hall square. Protesters may even succeed in toppling corrupt, autocratic regimes. But Twitter won't tell the opposition how to govern, how to develop democratic institutions or how to inculcate and defend the values, habits and behaviors that belong to democracy. These things require an immense amount of intellectual, conceptual and political work. And patience. This is especially so in countries that have little or no experience in democracy." The "how to" material is probably best left to NGOs and INGOs, with international broadcasting, in its journalistic function, reporting on "how it is."
   Update: Boston Globe, 25 Apr 2010, Jeff Jacoby: "For all the wonders it makes possible, information technology is only a tool, and like all tools it can be used to promote the cause of freedom, or to oppose it. That was the sobering theme of a conference on cyber-dissidents organized in Dallas last week by the George W. Bush Institute in conjunction with the human-rights organization Freedom House. ... [R]unning through the whole program was the Dickensian sense that today’s dissidents are living in the best of times and the worst of times: The social-media explosion makes it easier for champions of freedom to organize opposition and get information to the outside world, yet the very same online technology arms repressive governments with sophisticated new methods of censorship, surveillance, and disinformation. Far from ushering in a golden age of democracy, remarked the Bush Institute’s James K. Glassman, a former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, the Internet era has coincided with a 'freedom recession.' Interactive Web 2.0 applications have facilitated the rise of 'Authoritarianism 2.0.'"
   RFE/RL Off Mic, 21 Apr 2010: "Daud Khan Khattak, a broadcaster with RFE/RL's Pakistani service, Radio Mashaal, recently released a policy paper for the New America Foundation analyzing the ongoing battle between Taliban militants and Pakistani security forces for control of the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan." With link to the paper. The paper includes discussion of militants' FM radio broadcasts in the region.