This is a course blog for the classes on digital government and social media in the public sector" class taught by Professor Ines Mergel at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. The blog posts include comments and ideas from MPA, MAIR and EMPA students studying the use of new technologies in the public sector.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
When countries block social media...
The term "Twitter revolution" became widely known after the Arab Spring but not many people are aware that it was first used during the 2009 Moldova unrest. After these events many leadership of some countries started to see "foreign-owned" social media websites as a serious threat to their national security. It seems to be that the more authoritarian the country, the more there is a probability of blocking social media websites or at least some of them.
Initiatives as Open Net Initiative constantly monitor the situation with countries that restrict access to social media websites. China is known to block most of the popular social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, but on the other hand Chinese government extensively uses the in-house social media to communicate with its citizens. Unfortunately, other countries don't have the same technology or political will to directly engage in discussion with civil society. It did not take long time to report that the recent news about Iran unblocking social media was just a technical glitch and Iranians were again deprived of Facebook and Twitter.
There are different reasons why these countries try to restrict access to information. Some are afraid of opposition using social media to organize demonstrations, some want to isolate their citizen of outside world and its influence. Nevertheless, in a post-cold-war world of modern technologies all these attempts of different governments are faced with resistance of online activists. Due to such technologies as anonymizers or anonymous proxies, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and such projects as TorProject there always be a way for people to get connected to the rest of the world.