The Internet puts democracy to the test

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Des parlementaires ukrainiens se battent en pleine session, Ukraine © AFP PHOTO / Sergei Supinsky

Even though the Internet kindled hopes of a democratic world society for a while, the libertarian ideals from the early days are still present. Networks, as well as mobile phones and text messaging are precious tools for campaigners all over the world. The Tunisian revolution in 2011 showed how important having a Facebook page can be just as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine showed how powerful a few text messages can become. But governments are increasingly trying to control these new methods of communication and use them to monitor populations. The Egyptian and Libyan governments failed to do so, towards the end at least. But the Chinese government, which created a virtual Great Firewall of China to isolate its entire network, censors certain keywords in search engines and imprisons Democrats.

On a smaller but symbolic scale, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) which sets the rules for domain names (internet addresses) and should therefore be setting an example, has been criticised for its lack of democracy, its relationship with the American government, etc.

Governments are not the only ones threatening freedom. Companies like Google and Facebook have phenomenal amounts of information about everyone. Today in France, this information is used to send us adverts. But some people have been fired for making negative comments about their boss. What will happen next? The notion of a personal life seems to disappear on the Internet because people are eager to share their daily lives and read gossip (an activity that has been encouraged by the Internet).

Information technology therefore reflects the good side and the bad side of our world: its conflicts and its organisation, its shortcomings and our own. It is not technology itself but rather how we choose to use it that will determine whether its effects are positive or negative.

Extrait du livre « Vivre ensemble 7 milliards d’humains » rédigé par la rédaction de GoodPlanet et disponible aux éditions de la Martinière. Soutenez-nous en achetant cet ouvrage.

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