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Internet Interrogation

Internet Interrogation

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Published by Marlon Cornelio
This paper explores this debate on the positive or negative effect of internet on youth activism by characterizing the internet, more specifically Web 2.0 and its impact on democracy and authoritarianism, most of which are discussed in Evgeny Morozov’s “Net Delusion.” The paper also presents a challenge to internet/web users – citizens and activists, to interrogate the value of the web in advancing democratic and progressive agenda.
This paper explores this debate on the positive or negative effect of internet on youth activism by characterizing the internet, more specifically Web 2.0 and its impact on democracy and authoritarianism, most of which are discussed in Evgeny Morozov’s “Net Delusion.” The paper also presents a challenge to internet/web users – citizens and activists, to interrogate the value of the web in advancing democratic and progressive agenda.

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Published by: Marlon Cornelio on Apr 08, 2011
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1
Internet Interrogation
By Marlon Cornelio
1
 
An interesting article, entitled “Facebook ‘pushing Filipino rebels into oblivion’”
2
written by AgenseFrance
 –
Presse (AFP), came out of the Inquirer today (7 April 2011). Government peace negotiatingpanel (GRP) Chief Negotiator Alex Padilla was quoted saying that the internet helped steer awayuniversity students from the rebels. Rebellious youth vent online, in Facebook for example, rather thantake up arms against the state. Padilla noted that most rebel leade
rs are over 70 as “there has been alack of, or dearth of youthful ideologues actually being brought up.”
 While the article clearly refers only to leftist rebel groups
 –
the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)
and its armed wing, the New People’s Army
(NPA), the issue on the effect of internet on activism, in itsdifferent shades and forms, has steered much debate.But before going into the debate, there are just some points that need to be clarified: (1) the left, and/orthe activist, in the Philippines do not refer to a single entity; (2) while activism is usually associated withthe different groups in the left movement, the left does not have the monopoly on activism; (3) the leftmovement, in broad terms, can be classified into the democratic (or
‘moderate’) and the undemocratic(or the ‘extreme’); and (4) the difference between the broad division is hardly recognized
by somepeople in the media, the armed forces, including the police, as well as the public. Rigoberto Tiglao, forexample, mistakenly interchanged Akbayan from Bayan Muna
3
. Though the democratic left is fastgaining support from the public, still, in general, being left or an activist is projected and perceivednegatively. By this perception alone, fewer and fewer young people are interested into being an activist,more so a leftist. Possibly, similarities in activism among young people in other countries can be seen.With this context, the contending side of the debate, whether or not the internet (or the web) isadvantageous or disadvantageous to activists and activism, particularly on the process of democratization, is better framed. However, the case of CPP-NPA can also be a different issue alltogether. I could be that with or without the internet, young people, even wanting change or being anactivist, do not see that taking up arms as a reasonable form of struggle or of activism.
1
Marlon Cornelio is a youth activist in the Philippines. He is currently the Vice President of Akbayan Youth, ademocratic socialist formation,
the youth wing of Citizen’s Action Party (AKBAYAN).
 
2
Agence France-Presse(AFP)
 
. Facebook ‘pushing filipino rebels into oblivion’.
3
Tiglao, Rigoberto.
Outlook:Frency Against Merci-Eyes on the Senate.
 
2This paper explores this debate by characterizing the internet, more specifically Web 2.0 and its impacton democracy and authoritarianism, most of which are discussed in
Evgeny Morozov’s “Net Delusion
.
4
 The paper also presents a challenge to internet/web users
 –
citizens and activists, to interrogate thevalue of the web in advancing democratic and progressive agenda.
Web 2.0: the User-Friendly Version
From a user’s perspective, the main difference between the web in its earlier form
, web 1.0, and what isnow called web 2.0, is the end-users active participation in developing the platform as well as creatingcontent.
Tim O’Reilly
5
, one notable pioneer on web 2.0, notes of seven core competencies or features of web 2.0:
 
Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
 
Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
 
Trusting users as co-developers
 
Harnessing collective intelligence
 
Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
 
Software above the level of a single device
 
Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models
(emphasis supplied)
In these core competencies, the role that the end-user is assuming is highly notable. Another pioneer inthe web 2.0 discussion, Paul Graham
6
, on the other hand, accounts for 3 components of Web 2.0:1.
 
Ajax (refers to a broad group of web technologies that can be used to implement a webapplication that communicates with a server in the background, without interfering with thecurrent state of the page)2.
 
Democracy (or the users ability to select and produce content, i.e. wikipedia)3.
 
Do not maltreat users (or user-friendliness)Graham echoes Reilly while focusing more of the importance of the end-
user and the web’s
democratization value. For Graham, Web 2.0 signaled the revival of the web and the realization of itsintent to be a collaborative and democratic medium.Web 2.0, in this sense, empowers the users to create and manage web content. It makes users bothconsumers and producers. It changed the position of users from passive receivers to active participants.
Democracy 2.0
With web 2.0, applications like google, wikipedia, social networking site like facebook, and blogs, usersor people/citizens have also be empowered in their socio-political life through access to information,knowledge production, expression of opinion or dissent, networking, collaboration and mobilization. In
4
Morozov, Evgeny. 2011. The Net Delusion: How not to liberate the world.
5
http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=5
6
http://www.paulgraham.com/web20.html
 
3turn, this leads to heightened awareness, greater participation, or overall democratization. This isevidenced by the central role of the web and ICT in the expression in dissent in authoritarian states andthe successive uprisings in the Middle East which allegedly was mostly organized through socialnetworking platform and through texting (SMS). This was also observed in the second people poweruprising in the Philippines.The web, particularly 2.0, in these instances, has accelerated the end of authoritarianism and facilitatedthe process of democratization. Web 2.0 has become a powerful tool for democratization. It hasbecome a potent weapon against authoritarian rule. Following the same analyses, the United StatesState Department espouses an
internet freedom agenda
7
’ which includes promotion of democracy
through the internet or the web. This agenda capitalizes on the successful web-facilitated uprising andhopes to spread it like a wild fire in other authoritarian states.
Authoritarianism 2.0
While the US State Department and other actors see the events in the Middle East as a case of democracy facilitated by the web and internet, others, like Evgeny Morozov
8
views it as net delusions:cyber-utopianism and internet-centrism."Cyber-utopianism
” is the belief that technological innovations would spread democracy to oppressed
peoples of the world. Specifically, it is the belief that the culture and use of the internet is inherentlyemancipatory. "Internet-centrism", meanwhile, is the belief that every question or problem in ourmodern society and politics can be framed in terms of the internet. Consequently, answers and solutionscan be found or achieved using the internet.
Evgeny Morozov refers to these two as net delusions in his new book “The
Net Delusion: How not to
liberate the World” (2011). Morozov argues that the west's reckless promotion of technological tools as
pro-democratic agents caused provocation of authoritarian regimes to crack down on online activities,using different approaches: not just closing down or blocking websites, but using social networks toinfiltrate protest groups and track down protesters, seeding their own propaganda online, and generallyout-resourcing and out-smarting their beleaguered citizenry. Morozov further argues that theinternet/web, rather than enhancing democracy and the fight against authoritarian regimes, creates
tolerance and cripples dissent among citizens through the provision of ‘convenient’ activism,entertainment and ‘noise’. Morozov calls this as ‘spinternet’ or using internet in propagating andinstitutionalizing authoritarian regimes’ ‘spins’; and ‘slacktivism’ or providing a compromised and
compromising internet activism, to subliminally discouraging activism and dissent.With specific examples from Iran, China, Cuba, Russia, Belarus, among others, Morozov comes strong in
destroying the myth of world liberation through the internet and the illusion of ‘internet freedom’. He
puts the blame on the aggressive campaign of the west that have resulted to crackdown and subversion
of the internet by authoritarian regimes. Morozov also pities the ‘helpless’ media, development
7
cited in Morozov, 2011.
8
Ibid.

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