Freedom of the internet: Can we start a revolution through Facebook and Twitter?
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 27, 2011 19:02
Unrestricted use of the web is not necessary for a truly democratic nation as long as everybody, including the government, is unable to access information. Censoring and manipulation of the web, however, is where democracy disappears. In this case, the government is controlling which information the public is exposed to, controlling for the ideas it wishes for its constituents to hear.
The free use of the web allows for democracy by giving every opinion an equal chance of being heard. An unpopular argument will gain less traction while the prevalent ones will earn more weight. This will force governments to listen to the will of the people and ultimately give in to their wishes, which would, hopefully and theoretically, lead to a true democracy.
That was the goal of the Egyptian public when thousands of people took to the streets on Jan. 25, 2011, to protest living conditions and demand that President Hosni Mubarak, whose government had run rampant with corruption, leave office. Many credit Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing manager, with igniting the first protest through the use of Facebook and the internet. He was able to reach out to the youth of Egypt through social networking sites to help the protest gain traction and incite outrage over Mubarak's reign. Ghonim stated, "I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him [...] on behalf of Egypt. [...] This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started [...] in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I've always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the internet." Ghonim was able to find the right catalyst in the volatile nation and form a great uprising simply by sitting behind his computer. The Internet gave Ghonim and many others a voice and allowed them to share their frustrations with the world. The quick dissemination of this information would not have been possible had it not been for such networking sites and the prevalence of the use of the web among members of Generation Y, the group of people born in the late 1970s to the early 2000s.
These world citizens function constantly surrounded by technology: cell phones, text messaging, AIM and now Facebook. Many believe that this generation is known for its proficiency in all things technology related. Whether or not that is true is debatable, yet, it is unarguable that social networking sites such as Facebook have certainly gained great importance in our society today, mainly due to Generation Y's usage.
500 million active members use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, network and advertise. Currently, everybody (over the age of 13) is allowed to have a Facebook account. In this sense, Facebook is truly democratic. A higher power is not restricting what material can be shared with the world—except in the case of offensive material—nor is it restricting some voices to be heard while suppressing others. Facebook, along with many internet sites, allows every member to have an equal voice and gain as many followers or supporters as they wish, which is necessary for the people to feel as if it are being heard and satisfied with the institution currently governing them. There is no censoring in the world of Facebook and the web if one wishes to gain notice. Yes, the institution of Facebook can certainly limit the words and actions of an individual if they wish. After all, once something is published on Facebook, it states in the contract that Facebook owns that material. However, it is socially accepted that if one wishes to gain fame or notoriety through this entity, no one will hinder that person from accomplishing his or her goal. The equality felt by web users needs to be felt by others in society and a governmental body must allow individuals to express their opinions.
Due to the knowledge of what uncensored web usage may be capable of, many "isolated" nations may be hesitant to give their citizens free reign on the internet. The web allows users to have their voice heard, with only a limited amount of censoring or manipulation. One cannot declare definitively that the use of Facebook, internationally, would allow for a revolution in any country under similar conditions to those that Egypt was experiencing. However, it is definitely true that Facebook and free use of the internet can facilitate in the gathering of individuals and the sharing of ideas that can begin change and maybe, someday, a revolution.