Censorship cannot silent the voice of the people
November 8, 2011
Filed under Opinion
The first half of 2011 saw a historic string of revolutions in the Middle East and across the world, as various Arab dictators were overthrown by citizens no longer content with tyranny, brought together by the power of the Internet.
Ranging from shutting down social networking sites to shutting down Internet services entirely, tyrants across the region did everything they could to stay in power, and mostly with little success.
When Libyan rebels saw their Internet access cut off, they managed to get portable Internet towers to coordinate the revolution across the culturally scattered nation.
Wael Ghonim, a Google executive and Internet activist, is revered across Egypt as a hero due to his involvement in the revolution against the Mubarak regime.
Across the region, while anger and discontent drove citizens against their dictators, it was social networking that bound them together into a force strong enough to drive the revolution.
The Internet brought change in many profound ways which the world would not have known less than a year ago, and now its impact is more than obvious.
The second half of 2011 has brought progress to nations in upheaval, most of which are now forming entirely new governments and learning how to balance democratic principles with their own customs and cultures, scattered as they may be.
Unfortunately, this does not leave censorship as a relic of the past, but all too currently a product of the present – as a new movement grabs the attention of the nation and the world: Occupy Wall Street.
While many city police forces have been attacking protestors with brute force, the American federal government has largely ignored the movement, save expressions of support from individual officials.
So far, the government has not attempted to actively censor the movement, which gets most of its publicity online as traditional media outlets cover their own very slanted viewpoints.
The movement depends on social media to spread photographs of peaceful protesters and police brutality across the digital landscape.
Within days of violent beatings and tear gas at Occupy Oakland, thousands of Egyptians marched from Tahrir Square to the U.S. Embassy in a show of solidarity.
Some of them waved signs adorned with Twitter hash-tags, as many heard of the raids long before the Americans who woke to the news hours later.
This event showcased the true power of the Internet—global unity.
Social networking and rapid media coverage have allowed activists across the globe to unite and move together, often within hours of the idea that started it.
But many other nations are not so receptive.
China has gone as far as to block any phrase with the word ‘occupy’ from Internet searches, as well as from their Twitter-like site, Sina Weibo.
Ostensibly, this flies in the face of the Occupy movements in Beijing and Hong Kong, which are already stifled, and feature an extremely low number of occupiers – an anomaly for such densely populated cities.
India attempts comprehensive Internet censorship; but outside of pornography, the system is spotty in its effectiveness.
Large though its mesh may be, Indian censorship seems to be increasingly successful in working against the Occupy movement, though activists in the land of computer experts are already fighting back.
Unfortunately, America is not free of censorship – many people have found e-mails not sent if they included links to Occupy Wall Street, though Yahoo has since stopped blocking such e-mails.
American censorship is more insidious, though, with NYPD officers taking away Occupiers’ generators and other fuel sources in the face of looming winter cold. In response, the central website has listed ‘winter gear’ as its number-one resource priority.
All these cases show the nature of censorship itself: that it’s impossible to block everything. Even in the heavily censored digital landscape of China, activists manage
protests – small as they are – and every other attempt of censorship only ends up embarrassing those doing the censoring.
Yahoo has lost users after its censoring of Occupy Wall Street information, and protests in India are expanding in spite of the censorship.
Those with too much power to lose and no compassion for the people at the bottom of the social ladder can try everything they want to stop the progress, but their actions will only cause the discontent to grow that much angrier, and that much more fervent in their attempts to effect the change we all need.