In Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its openness, blogger Fouad al-Farhan has said: “The television stations are completely owned by the government. The newspapers are highly censored, and some of their chief editors have been in their positions for more than 30 years.” Fouad has found a way around the establishment and censorship: a way to have his voice heard, and a way to have his ideas expressed directly to the Saudi Government and the world. He does this through his blog.
On December 10th 2007, he was jailed for “violating the rules of the kingdom” or basically expressing free speech. US President George Bush is due in Saudi Arabia this week on a tour of the Middle East. While he is there, President Bush is going to press the Saudi Arabia leaders to release Fouad.
The President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world, is going to come to the defense of a normal Saudi citizen who he has never met. A blogger. On January 10th, Reporters without Borders sent an open letter to the Saudi Monarchy asking to have Fouad released. A reporter? No, a blogger.
Then on Friday, Wei Wenhua, a blogger in China, was reporting about a confrontation between local authorities and the villagers. He was filming the happenings for his blog and then was beaten to death by the police. CNN has reported that “thousands expressing outrage in Chinese Internet chat rooms, often the only outlet for public criticism of the government.”
These two incidents have shown us the power of technology. Authoritarian regimes have successfully suppressed free speech throughout the course of human history. For the first time in human history, the tide has turned; the authoritarian regimes can’t fight the blogs. For the first time in human history, the masses have the edge. Sure China can censor Google and run tons of pattern recognition software to disallow blogs and other Internet media, but as soon as they ban one, another will come up. It is similar to the RIAA and Record Companies suing Napster and College Students. Authoritarian regimes now have to cope with their citizens now having a voice. A voice heard by the entire world.
Get ready for Civil Disobedience 2.0.
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