RSA ANIMATE: The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?

we have heard a lot of stories about the impact of the internet on protest movements heard a lot about the information revolution and how's transforming countries like China countries like around even many of the countries in the former Soviet Union and you know the Assumption so far has been that the Internet is basically a very good thing when it comes to promoting democracy so many of this illusions were put together I in the mid 90s by thinkers which I can only call sub utopians people who really believed in the transformative power of the web to change societies and to change them for the better the most famous quote was that if social networking and blogging was around and they in the early 90s the genocide in Rwanda wouldn't have happened which is now very often quoted to illustrate this very naive view that many people had back at the time so many of the people who still believed in this I really think that blocks a more or less what faxes and Xerox machines where you know in the late 80s where the great dissident movement and Poland thinnest in Europe really embraced this technology right so essentially this argument is about economics and logistics the internet and new media has have made it really chip for people to produce content and of course the activists in the NGOs will inevitably use this technology in order to push for reform and change right so you know if you really want to sum up this you it basically says that if you have enough connectivity and enough devices democracy is almost inevitable let that explains why they have seen so many pushes to you know get China online get around online get Russia online make sure the people have enough connectivity make sure that people know what blogging is make sure that people know what connectivity is and somehow although no one and how exactly these people will use these tools to ask for more democracy and you know collaborate together and push for more stuff empty now one of the names which pundits have developed this but if you have used iPod liberalism it just believed that you know people who have iPods or any other sort of modern Western technology will also be very likely to support Western values in Western democracy right so the Assumption here is that if you give all Chinese or uranium's or Russians you know enough iPods or enough laptops or enough you know fax machines they will all somehow on their own aspire to democratic change right and of course this would make a fascinating you know title for a column by Thomas Friedman you know drop iPods or bombs but you know this is rarely a good son right I it's view which essentially disregards a lot of political cultural and sociological forces which I place in the societies and embraces a very deterministic picture of the role the technology plays right and the main confusion here is due to the fact that we actually aim to confuse the intended users of Technology with the actual users right just like we may want to think that you know radio for example can help establish democracy and you know country like the Soviet Union which is part of depth you know it was also used very actively during the very run in genocide that you know we wanted to revert we have as I've mentioned previously somewhat of a myth that a certain leaders and dictators somehow fear the Internet the fear of Technology and again if you really look very closely at how government leaders are trying to sort of reach out to their different Madison's and you know and Internet users that's actually not the case pretty much across the board with an exception problem of North Korea in Booma Syrian leaders are actually very actively engaging with technology computers you know and so forth and you know sometimes they do debate around issues which are not political they do allow debate around someone political issues like climate change all that is happening which is that this one happening on issues like human rights for example so you can see now there is criticism in Chinese blogs it's actually there is much more criticize than non physicists you know in this both of nationally local governments the question then is why does the government tolerate it first is to generate information that the government needs to run the country most of this bureaucrats in the government and in Russia China Iran or elsewhere they operate in huge information vacuum they don't really know fully what's happening in the outer regions so for them having people blog and having people voluntarily provide information about what may be wrong with some local issues is actually quite helpful because then it helped them to track down the local corruption misbehavior you know and go actually in a fix some of the problems which may not be political in nature but which may help them to earn out survive into the next you know century it just helps which is legitimacy right so for them sort of having this fake opening up in cyberspace is actually very useful because it reduces tension is that convinces some people at lest that yes they are willing to consider outside views and opinions some of this is happening slightly differently in other country see now they may be still spinning it but they also trying to leverage the support of their users online in cyberspace right so for example in Thailand there is a very interesting site called protect the King started by one of their members of parliament which basically encourages users in DINO internet users to go and start submitting links to websites which they may find offensive to the king so you can basically go and dominate any of the websites that you don't like and it will be almost within 24 hours blocked and then you need to go through a very complex procedure it on blocking letting because there are very severe in the less majestic laws in Thailand you know that works very well once they launch it than 24 hours to go to X 2000 websites blog let them there are a lot of loyalists who actually either you're happy to contribute their knowledge and tips and whatnot to have those websites censored the same is happening in Saudi Arabia where you know Internet users I encouraged to go and search YouTube for videos which may offend Saudi sensibilities and then to nominate them for delicious right and then if that particular video accumulates a critical mass then YouTube will have to delete it we will have to consider deleting it because so many people have complained right so there are organized campaigns actually to try to go and influence the decisions even Western companies on this issue how the Iranian authorities after the protests are now you know are slowing down I actually looking at all the online evidence trail left on Facebook and Twitter that should go and start cracking down on people who were active in cyberspace right so now one of the initiatives now is actually putting online the pictures of protesters in the street so that they can actually be identified so the crowdsourcing this process of matching faces to names right and of course you can guess who's going to happen once they know who you know the protesters where there are a world of dangers and fears we do not entirely understand at this point what you don't realize is that Twitter despite all these virtues it's actually a public platform right and if you do want to plan a revolution on fear you know your actions will be visible to everyone now in the past you know states used to torture to get this kind of data I mean now they have to do just to get on Facebook now if if you want to know how I am as an activist and a country like Belarus or Iran I'm connected to $20,000 activists you know all we have to do is go and look up my Facebook friends my final part here would be again about the sad utopian assumption that somehow the younger generation which has not been subject to brainwashing which is all about digital media mobile phones moving on blackberries and laptops will somehow be prone to in a revolution will be prone to embrace democratic values the problem here is again that we hear quite a lot about cyber activism right but we hear very little about what are called cyber Kadena's right where the young people may not necessarily did that crazy about participating in any political action whether it's online or offline because of all the good things that the Internet has to offer adult content which is pornography now and instant messaging and email still occupies proportionally much more space than politics or news right and again we have to keep it in perspective that most of what young people don't line revolves around you know them communicating to each other or downloading entertainment right and it's not at all clear how they will advance to this level of actually being politically active what if it wouldn't get them onto the streets and that's something which you don't see discussed very often you know we hear a lot about this distinction between digital natives and digital you know immigrants what you don't hear about the distinction between digital renegades and digital captives which i think is a much more important one because we need to know how exactly technology influences their inno civic engagement and their propensity to actually go and engage in protest we have to go back to maslow and actually start thinking about how this you know pyramids of needs can actually be applied to cyberspace and it may as well be about when you are coming you know when you are bringing internet to China Russia where and at the very beginning what people would want to do online is you know have fun in our explore pornography or YouTube or videos of funny cats and we want to party and sharing some we want to go and explore learning eventually they may want to campaign some of them will go and start downloading reporters from Human Rights Watch but most examples will be downloading pornography and that's if you are important perspective to keep in mind and if you really want to understand the actual map impact an artifact of technology on in our society they have to look much broader in fact in the negative consequences as well you

  1. Can you make an animated presentation of Edward Snowden's revelations and all the NSA and other government components involved? This may be very difficult for anyone to do.

  2. Every time I watch this I notice some little humorous detail I didn't notice the last time. Like the porn-watching mouse at about 8:47… can you tell what he's doing? Took me 3 watches to figure it out.

  3. Very insightful presentation which raises some important issues about the utilitarian qualities of internet technologies and the political process. I especially agree on the point that the current power holders could make and are making as good (if sometimes not better) use of those technologies than the politically marginalised. Although that is invariably true it is nevertheless hard to argue against the fact that internet and the (relatively) accessible mobile devices have had an unprecedented liberating effect on many disengaged and disenfranchised people all types of existing political systems. In that sense, taking into consideration the inevitable setbacks which such a method of organisation might have; internet technology has presented us (humanity) with the best means (thus far) for democratising and the liberalising the political process.

  4. Democracy, I share Plato's views on democracy, and Aristotle's. The best political system is a constitutional monarchy like there was in XIX century Britain (not the kind we have today, which is pretty much the same as republican democracy).

  5. Doesn't this video and the free access to it, contradict any outside influence stopping anyone from sharing knowledge?
    Anyway, great content.

  6. Not only in China, Iran, Belarus… but also in other Western countries, Internet has its roles of censoring and controlling citizens. Google, Facebook, Twiter, Apple, Email… all of our activities are watched 24/7 without any notification?

  7. I agree with some others, mentioning Belarus, Iran and few other countries is just prejudice. They may be not better then the others, but sure they are not worse then all others in this respect

  8. This is problem that i have with this video – is western democracy even desirable in the first place?

    This video assumes the superiority of western democracy to other forms of government when in actuality the only difference is that the US/UK etc have devised more sophisticated and less blunt ways of controlling their populace and neutering dissent than the Irans and Chinas of the world

  9. That effect appeared in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, where the non official networks (mainly e-social networks) were the leading communication chain, where immediate pictures, tweets and status updates were one of the main sources of uncensored real-time information, making a mass movement of population in demonstrations and set ins, leading to the removal of the old regime.

  10. The children of today are to busy caring about there immediate social circle on social media to ever acknowledge the presence of a government

  11. 08:16… The younger generation has not been subject to brainwashing?
    It may not be as explicit as to previous generations but it is still happening to a great extent through media, images, adverts and even education. And the worse is that we become less and less capable of realising it.

  12. Is coming! Direct Dempcracy… AIRESIS.IT form your group on airesis and see the change taking place. Consensus building on line to make a change.

  13. If girls spend enough time together their menstrual cycles will sync. If humanity communicates enough our views will find common ground. Communication dissolves extreme polar views. Our 7,000,000,000 opinions are chaos. The internet speeds our determination of our strange attractor. I vote 'LOVE>FEAR'

  14. Well said. Technology is a medium and information is not necessarily equated to thought – its what you bring to the table in terms of research skills and creative searching that allows you to get value out of the internet. Education and reading have to be primary drivers here, and people wont read outside their comfort zone unless they have a reason to do so.

  15. the internet is for porn! the internet is for porn! why you think the net was born?, porn! porn! porn!!! XD

  16. Oh, so cannabis makes you SO chill that you tell someone who doesn't want to take it to "go to hell". Why is that? Could it be that you're too much of a typical status-quo-supporting coward to sustain a choice of your own preference in the face of any dissent? You're pathetic.

  17. EDUCATION AND HEALTH ARE THE MOST EXPENSIVE?what are we gonna do when people can't afford it?are we still gonna have civil society?

  18. There are people who will misunderstand this video as there is people who will misuse the internet, until we humans figure out how to archive complexity beyond our narrow mindset, we will have to live with misunderstanding and misusage of ideas, knowledge and people. Until then my dragon dildos will continue to hang from the ceiling.

  19. Weed smoking is like the internet, which is like anything. Pros and cons. It can be a tool for liberation of the mind or a trap. I work in with low income children in Hawaii and man they love to smoke weed, and so do I. But when they smoke weed I doubt they read books, and imagine the limitless possibilities life has…Then again I don't know what it's like for them to be high. I do know that they continue to make terrible life decisions whether or not they smoke weed.

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