Internet: A Spark for Democracy?
The 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine and protests in South Korea, Moldova and Iran in 2009 were able to spread further and faster by social media. And, according to The New York Times, the protests which ultimately unhinged the Tunisian dictatorship were aided by a Facebook page called “Tunisians,” which hailed as a hero Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old university graduate who could only find work as a fruit and vegetable vendor and set himself on fire in a city square when the police seized his cart and mistreated him. Quotes also appeared on Twitter.
The “spectacle of crowds surging in the streets” was unique in Arab cultures, and smaller protests have already taken place in other Arab countries. The Times also cited the tweet of a blogger in Bahrain: “It actually happened in my lifetime! An Arab nation woke up and said enough.”
While these developments undoubtedly will serve as a lesson to other dictators, and may encourage them to “shut off” the internet, it is unlikely that the world force of this viral communications channel can be tamed for long.
Of course, we cannot forget that there is a flip side to the internet: it provides the same access to terrorists and those who seek evil, whether leaders or those among the general public. Assuming that the force for good is greater than the force for evil, the world has an opportunity for true democracy to triumph more broadly than ever before.
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