I feel that if we have learned anything from what happened in Egypt, it is that an all powerful Internet “Kill” switch, with the might to entirely shut the entire population off from accessing the internet, is a terrible thing and should not be brought into existence — assuming that it does not secretly already exist.

In a RelationShaping article, David Boles wrote that the current revolution would not be won because of having internet access or not having it:

Social Revolutions are about angry people in the streets with their feet on the dirt and their hands grasping at the air above them. To cling to the quaint notion that social change happens in the bits of a Facebook update or the bytes of a Tweet is to insult the very damaging, and irrevocable, way human lives are sacrificed in the wager against repression and in the innate fight for equality and freedom.

In a WordPunk article I wrote the following day, I argued that it is quite true that the revolution will not be won through Twitter, but that tools such as Twitter and Facebook are important to spread the voice of the common people to the rest of the world. If you hear about an event from someone who was directly affected by the event, do you not give it a little more weight than if you hear a third party analysis of what happened as observed through the lens of a camera?

I am reminded a bit of Alexis de Tocqueville who toured America to see what democracy was like in this country — as much information as he may have gathered in that time, it could not have possibly compared to living a day to day life as an American in one place for months at a time, not moving about regularly and living life as a tourist.

Despite the crackdowns from Egypt, some still found ways to go online in the form of dial-up internet — much in thanks to the internet group known as Anonymous:

The group of internet activists known as Anonymous was also using faxes to get information to students at several schools in the country. Anonymous activists have been faxing copies of cables from Wikileaks relating to Egypt in the hope that the information they contain about the Mubarak regime will be more widely distributed. It is not clear how much impact this is having, however.

Historically speaking, there was no such thing as an internet in the realm of revolutions taking place in the world. The majority of wars for independence in the history of the world took place without anyone being able to log into their Twitter account. This being the case, people relied on alternative methods of communication — methods that were popular then. It would be hard to imagine how World War I would have been different had telegram technology not existed at the time, for example — would the United States have joined in on the war had the British government not intercepted a telegram from Germany to Mexico, offering part of the United States in exchange for their aid in the war?

While it is entirely true that even without an Internet to access, we the people of the United States would find ways to communicate with the outside world should our own government decide to shut down our access for any reason — do we really need to delve into those dark and murky waters to find out how we would cope?

2 Comments

  1. Great article, Gordon!

    Wired wrote about how the US Military has secret tools that can “bring back” the internet to cutoff countries — but that can be seen as an act of war:

    The U.S. military has no shortage of devices — many of them classified — that could restore connectivity to a restive populace cut off from the outside world by its rulers. It’s an attractive option for policymakers who want an option for future Egypts, between doing nothing and sending in the Marines. And it might give teeth to the Obama administration’s demand that foreign governments consider internet access an inviolable human right.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/secret-tools-force-net/