Category Archives: Society

a worldwide social network that has fomented revolution in multiple countries

Who would have thought that twitter and facebook could foment a revolution? Yet Wael Ghonim says it did. He’s one of the people behind the “We are all Khaled Said” facebook page, and he spent a dozen days in jail for it: Here’s his TED Talk:
“Because of the Internet, the truth prevailed.
And everyone knew the truth.
And everyone started to think that this guy can be my brother.”

Here’s a post from that facebook page on 3 March 2011:

“I really want you ALL to understand that your support to Free Egypt & Egyptians is vital. Don’t you ever think that sitting on FaceBook supporting & commenting help help Egypt. A whole revolution started on Facebook & is now bringing Freedom & starting a new modern Egypt.”

Other Egyptian organizers say similar things:

“Online organising is very important because activists have been able to discuss and take decisions without having to organise a meeting which could be broken up by the police,” he said.’
( “Internet role in Egypt’s protests,” by Anne Alexander, BBC, 9 February 2011.)

Many of the Egyptians involved were poor and not usually thought of as Internet users, but David D. Kirkpatrick expalined that in the NY Times 9 Feb 2011, Wired and Shrewd, Young Egyptians Guide Revolt:

The day of the protest, the group tried a feint to throw off the police. The organizers let it be known that they intended to gather at a mosque in an upscale neighborhood in central Cairo, and the police gathered there in force. But the …organizers set out instead for a poor neighborhood nearby, Mr. Elaimy recalled.

Starting in a poor neighborhood was itself an experiment. “We always start from the elite, with the same faces,” Mr. Lotfi said. “So this time we thought, let’s try.” ‘

The NY Times story goes into detail about how the online organizing interfaced with and instigated the initial meatspace protests.

And you don’t need a laptop or a desktop computer to use social media. As Reese Jones points out,

in 2010 75% of the population of Egypt had cell phones (60 million phones in service likely with SMS) possible to message via Facebook via SMS at
And this was all after similar efforts in Tunisia had successfully exiled their tyrant and inspired the Egyptians, who in turn inspired the Lybians, etc. And what inspired the Tunisians to start was Wikileaks posts of U.S. cables showing the U.S. thought the Tunisian dictator was just as clueless and corrupt as the Tunisians thought.

So yes, social networking on the Internet has fomented multiple revolutions.


Canadian Net Neutrality

cd.gif In Canada, an ISP has even gotten up to blocking striking employees’ website:
During the Telus strike in 2005, the corporation blocked access to a website run by striking Telus employees called “Voices for Change” (and at least 766 other websites). Those familiar with network-control issues in Canada also accuse Rogers and Bell of limiting peer-to-peer (P2P) applications, which people use to share audio, video and other digital data with one another. So, here we have ISPs blocking or at least limiting the use of what is likely the most innovative, creative and participatory use of the Internet. In response to customer concerns, Bell recently admitted that they “are now using Internet Traffic Management to restrict accounts that are using a large portion of bandwidth during peak hours. Some of the applications that are included are the following: BitTorrent, Gnutella, LimeWire, Kazaa….”

The Fight for the Open Internet, Steve Anderson, Canadian Dimension magazine, January/February 2008 issue

The rest sounds very familiar: Continue reading

if we just had phones and Internet service

32099661.jpg If you’re stuck in a desert in the summer in a dead-end war, what do you want? Water, women, wine? Food and a ticket out? For some, the first thing they want is:
“There are two different wars,” said Staff Sgt. Donald Richard Harris, comparing his soldiers’ views with those of commanders in distant bases. “It’s a dead-end process, it seems like.”

Asked to rank morale in his unit, Harris gave it a 4 on a 10-point scale. “Look at these guys. This is their downtime,” he said, as young soldiers around him silently cleaned dust from their rifles at a battle position south of the capital. A fiery wind blasted through the small base, an abandoned home surrounded by sandbags and razor wire.

“It sounds selfish, but if we just had phones and Internet service,” said Staff Sgt. Clark Merlin, his voice trailing off.

GIs’ morale dips as Iraq war drags on, By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, August 25, 2007

This is perhaps an indication of how important Internet service is these days. With it, these troops can communicate with their peers, family, and others, not to mention get news on whatever they want. Without it, they’re isolated in a howling desert.

Back home, without the Internet, we’re isolated in the wastelands of TV.


Not Virtual

Linnar Viik John Robb quotes an Estonian on a basic point:
“This is not some virtual world. This is part of our independence. And these attacks were an attempt to take one country back to the cave, back to the Stone Age.”
Linnar Viik, an Estonian government IT consultant to the Washington Post.

Internet Systems Disruption, John Robb, Global Guerrillas, 21 May 2007

A society is its communications, and increasingly the Internet is the matrix of those communications. Such communications are virtual only in the same sense that society is virtual. And it doesn’t take an attack by a foreign power to disrupt those communications. Too few ISP owners can reduce participatory communications to limited broadcast, just as has already happened in radio.