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Protests and Revolutions Being Fueled By Social Networking
Technology, it seems, has finally outsmarted and overpowered the governments of some of the strongest countries on the planet. With a gloomy situation hanging over Egypt, technology has prevailed as the true winner of this battle. Innocent foreigners trapped in Egypt, hackers from around the world, and some of the governments of the strongest nations in the world were all connected by one thing on Thursday: social networking.
Foreigners trapped in Egypt, who have lacked connections to the outside world for over a week, were finally able to (illegally) contact their friends and loved ones after a mix between Skype, Google, and SayNow, made it possible for them to make posts to the outside world. Hacktivists from around the world, in support of antigovernment protests in Egypt, collaborated to help shut down the websites of the Ministry of Information of Egypt and President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party website on Thursday. Finally, the one set of people who were supposed to stop all of this from happening, the governments of the world, were helpless and dumbfounded.
Finally, it seems, social networking is giving average civilians the ability to bypass government restrictions.
They’re called Hacktivists, and the name explains exactly what they do: hack for a cause. For most people, the idea of hacking is rewarded with personal gain, but for this group, on the other hand, it’s different; it’s the idea of “hacking for a cause” that fuels these professionals’ desire to put their specialty to use in untraditional situations. The same group that supported the release of the Wikileaks cables, Anonymous, is on the move once again to support the antigovernment protests currently occurring in Egypt.
After finally restoring some internet service, Mubarak was hit once again: Anonymous brought down the Ministry of Information of Egypt website and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party website.
While some arrests were made by the FBI, almost all people arrested were instantly processed and released. Because of the opportunity that the internet gives for people to falsify their information, tracking individuals becomes a very tedious process for governments.
"We want freedom," declared Anonymous member Gregg Housh, who spoke to the New York Times for a story posted Wednesday evening. "It’s as simple as that. We’re sick of oppressive governments encroaching on people."
Many times, governments have no ability to track the location and/or real identity of people sitting behind a computer because of the easy availabilities of fake identities on the web. This poses a serious risk when groups like Anonymous begin to start causing international trouble.
Meanwhile, while Anonymous was hard at work, many people trapped in Egypt were still stuck without internet; therefore, they had no connection to friends and loved ones living in the outside world. While the government of Egypt tried to tell the world a one-sided story, civilians trapped in Egypt were finally able to connect to loved ones by using the little cell phone service still remaining in Egypt. Using a service that connected Google, Twitter, and SayNow, average civilians trapped in Egypt were able to connect to these services and post voice messages to a Twitter page for the whole world to hear.
Not only were these civilians able to connect and speak to loved ones, but this also allowed the other side of the story (the one the Egyptian government wasn’t telling) to get out, raw and uncut.
Social networking has finally reached an important point; a point that has been feared by many for years. The ability to surpass government restrictions and control is finally in the hands of internet users around the world.
With so many sites and users in existence, harsh governments, such as China, and governments in need to population control, such as Egypt, have an almost impossible task of trying to limit and filter web use in a propaganda-like fashion. Not only do these countries lose their ability to keep this “tight” control on their citizens, but often times, the internet can pose risks to national security.
Innocent concepts such as a creating an event on Facebook, could turn ugly when the event is actually created for a violent protest in Egypt. In this way, at times of civil unrest, the internet poses the risk of being the advocator of these events; it allows people from all over the world to collaborate, therefore spreading ideas that probably shouldn’t be spread.
“[The Facebook event created by Mr. Ghonim for an Egypt protest] was the most popular,” said Aida Seif el-Dawla, a human rights advocate and professor of psychiatry who works with El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in Cairo, in an article written by the New York Times. “It gave a space for the young people to interact with each other and to plan together.”
Finally, technology’s true risk to governments is revealed; as technology and internet capabilities increase, there is a decrease in the power and ability of governments. Because of laws, policies, and rules, governments are too slow to adapt to the constantly changing ways of the web, which is often referred to as “law-less” and has almost no rules and regulations to prevent unwanted actions.