Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Sudan President Fights Social Networking Protests With Social Networking

"The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir has called on his supporters to use Facebook in order to overcome groups that are opposed to his rule. Bashir made the call during his visit to North Kordofan state on Tuesday where he inaugurated a power plant. Sudan official news agency (SUNA) cited Bashir as instructing authorities to pay more attention towards extending electricity to the countryside so that the younger citizens can use computers and internet to combat opposition through social networking sites such as Facebook."
Man, that's some quick co-opting! Just last month, protesters used social networking sites to organize demonstrations against Al-Hashir. Those demonstrations were quickly shut down by police who took dozens of the protesters to jail.

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blily (#1,411)

There's a nice piece in this week's New Yorker that addresses this. It's a rundown of recent books on how the internet is changing things, and one of the ideas it takes on is the fantasy that technologies for spreading information only spread information that increases human freedom.

From the article:

"But all the media of modern consciousness—from the printing press to radio and the movies—were used just as readily by authoritarian reactionaries, and then by modern totalitarians, to reduce liberty and enforce conformity as they ever were by libertarians to expand it. As Andrew Pettegree shows in his fine new study, “The Book in the Renaissance,” the mainstay of the printing revolution in seventeenth-century Europe was not dissident pamphlets but royal edicts, printed by the thousand: almost all the new media of that day were working, in essence, for

Even later, full-fledged totalitarian societies didn’t burn books. They burned some books, while keeping the printing presses running off such quantities that by the mid-fifties Stalin was said to have more books in print than Agatha Christie. (Recall that in “1984” Winston’s girlfriend works for the Big Brother publishing house.) If you’re going to give the printed book, or any other machine-made thing, credit for all the good things that have happened, you have to hold it accountable for the bad stuff, too. The Internet may make for more freedom a hundred years from now, but there’s no historical law that says it has to."

Read more

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