The WSJ reports
that dissidents in Egypt are attempting to organize a nationwide strike using Facebook. The article says this is part of a larger trend across the Mid East:
The activism on Facebook is part of larger efforts by youths across the Arab world to use technology -- from blogs to cellphone text messages to YouTube -- to challenge their governments and push the envelope on dissent in ways older generations didn't know. In parts of the Middle East such as Beirut and Tehran, local governments immediately jam cellphones if there is civil unrest, to prevent it from spreading. ...
Egyptian officials have taken notice. Tech-savvy Interior Ministry officers browse the social-networking site to keep an eye on anything they may deem a security threat.
This excerpt really captures the double-edged sword of technology. While overall the Internet clearly promotes freedom (a main theme in my book, The PayPal Wars
), technology can also be used by oppressive regimes trying to promote their own interests.
Blocking content is an obvious example, and a favorite tactic of dictators. Recall China's recent efforts to block access to YouTube
during the uprising in Tibet, or Iran's crackdown
on Web access back in 2006. But dictators are also pretty inventive in their efforts to twist tech to their benefit. In this particular case, Egypt is monitoring Facebook to identify dissenters. Similarly, China has convinced many Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Yahoo to cooperate with it by restricting content
available to Chinese citizens.
Let us pray that the advocates of freedom -- empowered by technology created through the free market -- stay two steps ahead.