Thursday, October 02, 2014

Dictators versus the Internet -- whack a mole

Since the time of the 1991 Soviet Coup attempt, dictators have played "whack a mole," trying to stem the flow of political information on the Internet during times of protest.

The Internet was a major factor during the Arab Spring and demonstrations in Turkey and Venezuelan earlier this year.

Today, the Chinese government is censoring news about the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the dissidents are finding new ways to communicate.

Chinese censors are also trying to erase news of the past, as we learned at the time of the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests.

In the early days, we were optimistic that the Internet would end up a great force for democracy, but it is clear now that we were naive -- it is a tool used by both dictators and the people. Who gains the most?

_____
Update 10/6/2014

The Economist reports that the Chinese are censoring posts on Weibo at more than double the rate of censorship for the Tiananmen Square anniversary protests.

Increased censorship of the Hong Kong demonstrations

Relcom's "kremvax" relayed USENET news during the Soviet coup attempt.

Protesters used Facebook during the Arab Spring.

Turkish dissidents painted DNS server addresses on walls

Venezuelan protesters used the Zello walkie-talkie app.

The Chinese government is censoring news of today's Hong Kong protests.

Many Chinese are unaware of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests