The 18th and 19th century revolts were trigerred by pens.. The 21st century revolutions are triggered by tweets and posts. The Arab Spring was almost totally mobilized over the internet. So has been ‘Occupy Wall Street’. So has been the jasmine movement running largely underground in China. Well so was the London riot. You do not have to think hard to figure out why governments dislike the internet. You can buy off media houses. You can censor the press. Internet which represents the voice of billion plus people is hard to regulate or control. I will rephrase the statement. It is impossible to regulate or control. That does not keep the government from trying though. Governments around the world have given themselves enormous power to monitor emails. To censor websites. To regulate access. There are internet Nazis all around the world scouring the web for ‘objectionable’ content. The Arab Spring happens nonetheless.
The reasons are simple. Every individual with access to the web is a virtual publisher. That makes a billion plus channels to filter and screen. The internet is a highly fluid medium where identies, national boundaries, jurisdictions of the state get blurred As governments tighten their snooping on the net, netizens respond with vengeance masking IP’s, altering egos, inventing virtually unhackable websites, dummy emails. Technology keeps a step ahead of government. As do the people. The more you control, the more ballistic the virtual world gets. The internet which connects billion plus people on the globe into one big, chaotic family is the ultimate celebration of free speech. Incidents such as the state army shooting at an unarmed youth are captured and reported as they occur without the intervention of the editing scissors. Secrets are exposed, opinions are aired, images are ruined, governments are toppled, virtually at the speed of thought. The internet vests the ordinary citizen with an extraordinary power.
However the power by no means can be construed as absolute. Because there have been umpteen abuses of the people power. The net, like the real world, is also full of all sorts of people from pedophiles to religious bigots to terrorists. Who use the internet to distribute disturbing images of persecution. To incite people. To spread terror. To rally mobs who threaten the very things the net stands for – personal freedom and dignity. To undermine the vibrant, diverse and powerful internet community. Which all triggers the uncomfortable debate – Does this power need to be regulated. Yes it does. A very different form of regulation though – community censorship.
Since the community bears the brunt of the actions of the web-maniacs, the censorship or regulation has to come within it. What would you do if a neighbor is abusing his 5 year old. Or if you know certain people are inciting communal tension. You would obviously take some form of action to stop the crimes. Well, do the same on the net. Your net footprint should mirror your good citizen values. The community has to react sharply to instances of abuse on the internet. The regulatory mechanism will come from within us. We need to see more instances of netizens reacting swiftly to abuses and slanders, instigation and defamation to keep the internet a generally nice place. Report content that so grossly undermines the pillars civic society is based on. Canvas against sites that for example spread communal tension. React to bad behavior as you would react to it in real life. And stick to your personal code of ethics despite the anonymity net offers. At the heart of the internet is the community. And it is the community which can rally to keep it a good place. Not necessarily agreeable to the state. But not detrimental to the fundamental tenets of the human society either.