ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Net Freedom, Gross Control

The internet's potential for fostering democracy is unnerving established powers.

The public sphere of debates, conversations and dialogue has been radically altered and people now communicate directly across borders, censors and languages. Countries where the traditional media is fully controlled by the State are suddenly faced with an unprecedented situation where people are in public conversations that are largely uncontrolled and inaccessible to the regimes. Many popular upsurges in recent times have been spontaneous since they have been a result of such public conversations building up and gathering momentum. The response of most regimes faced with the political fallout of these developments has been to shut down services, put up filters, reduce access and use good old, non-technological tools like jail terms and torture, to curb the dissent emerging out of these networks. Egypt tried to close down the entire internet of the country to stop protestors communicating with each other, while Iran tried to disable Twitter and Facebook. China has been the most “successful” in working out various methods of control over the net. It has managed through a combination of measures and circumstances – by coercing the major communication companies, using a massive army of online censors, putting physical pressure on dissidents and taking advantage of China’s language isolation – to keep the Chinese internet relatively closed and sterile. Or so it appears. However, even governments in supposedly “open s ocieties” and “democracies” have been wary of the openness which these technologies have provided to their citizens and have often regressed into taking measures to undercut the openness of the net.

 

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