Twitter isn’t behaving itself – posting links to a “Draw Mohammed Day” competition – and Pakistan’s collective panties have been throughly bunched. Or, they’re testing a new URL filtering system. Both motives are malevolent.
If the aim was indeed preventing the spread of blasphemous images, it didn’t work. In fact, it had the opposite effect, as many more Pakistanis are now aware that “Draw Mohammed Day” exists. Whoops! (And many more are now aware that the Pakistani government has something up its sleeve when it comes to sudden, wide-spread URL bans).
I’m still sifting through the information on this one, but this is just another example of what extremist governments do when social media doesn’t do exactly what it wants: they lash out, usually in a really, really stupid way. The young and savvy of the oppressive nation collectively roll their eyes – and then, immediately, they adapt. Nothing is achieved. And that’s what’s so awesome about the Internet. Attempts to control it never really work.
It’s easy to see why government’s find social media and the Internet so profoundly disquieting. It’s difficult as hell to control – even China hasn’t mastered the art of the information lockdown. It’s really difficult to turn off (although some have tried).
Convincing the major social networks to comply with your dictatorial whims is both complicated and not guaranteed to be successful, even if you send Mark Zuckerberg threatening letters. If you’re somewhere like Afghanistan, you can always threaten to kill the Internet pioneers, of course – but there will be more.
There’s no books to burn, everyone’s able to post their 95 theses anywhere online whenever they want, and what’s worse, it’s really hard to tell who’s looking at what when thanks to the advent of better security software. What’s an oppressive, backwards regime to do?
The transformative power at the Internet – hell, look at the Arab Spring – is the best argument there is for the Internet being a basic human right. The Internet definitely has a lot of pornography, stupid cat videos, and Facebook circle-jerks, but it also contains the entirety of the human experience – really, it’s inseperable from us.
The Internet isn’t just a useful business tool, it’s the best agent of international freedom we have. And that has a lot of people scared.