banner1 banner1 banner1


Social media threatens dictators 31

14:41, Joel Brinkley, San Francisco Chronicle — Politics

Social media threatens dictators

Most of the world's dictators share a common fear.

It's not of the United States, NATO, the United Nations or any outside entity. No, the force that most threatens them is socialmedia.

Originally designed as enhanced online chat forums for young Americans, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the rest have spread around the world and are now being used as cudgels against authoritarian leaders in places like Vietnam, Russia, Belarus and Bahrain. In those states and so many others, the leaders are attacking tweeters and bloggers as if they were armed revolutionaries. And the repression isspreading.

In India a few days ago, a 21-year-old medical student posted a mildly critical comment about a Hindu political figure who'd just died. Within 24 hours, police arrested her and a friend who had "liked" the student's Facebook post and charged them with engaging in hateful, offensive speech - this in one of the world's strongest democracies. (Police let them go a few dayslater.)

A more typical example comes from Belarus. There, PresidentAlexander Lukashenko, commonly known as Europe's last dictator, seems to be fighting online verbiage all thetime.

Recently, Ecuador'sSupreme Courtturned down an extradition request from Belarus for a blogger who fled there after the government charged him with fraud. Alexander Barankov had been blogging about widespread government corruption. That particular extradition denial stands as a bold demonstration of the fraud charge's absurdity becauseRafael Correa, Ecuador's president and an acolyte of Venezuelan PresidentHugo Chavez, is no champion of press freedom. Far from it. And yet he defied the Belarusrequest.

Barankov is hardly the only example. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declaimed Lukashenko's record of arresting journalists and bloggers, saying "unfortunately recent detentions and searches in Minsk and elsewhere in the country show continued efforts to muzzle dissenting voices and clamp down on freedom of expressiononline."

Iran, not surprisingly, is even tougher. Bloggers are given long prison terms or sentenced to death, charged with "enmity against God" and subverting national security. Human-rights groups say the bloggers and tweeters are tortured in jail. In mid-November, one died in police custody for unexplainedreasons.

Iran actually is trying to set up its own internal Internet. There, the government says, "unregulated social media and other content likely to encourage dissent" simply won't beavailable.

But the sad truth is, the dictators whose people are the most repressed - locked in abject poverty - don't have to worry about the social-media problem. In Laos, Cambodia, Eritrea, Mozambique and a handful of other states, most people have no access to computers or cell phones. Many of them are illiterate and couldn't use the devices even if they had them. That leaves their leaders to trample over their rights with near-impunity.

China demonstrates this better than any nation. The state's economic-development program pulled millions of Chinese out of poverty. Previously, Chinese were relatively quiescent. But with prosperity came a new understanding of how venal and repressive theChinese Communist Partyreally is. So, millions of Chinese took to new social-media platforms tocomplain.

Now China spends more money on internal security - including a massive online censorship office - than it does on its military. Persistent online critics are imprisoned or worse. That demonstrates a clear fact: The Chinese government fears its own people far more than it does any outsidepower.

Other states are catching up. Russia is implementing a massive new online Internet filtering system, ostensibly to protect children from offensive sites. But human-rights advocates warn that it can just as easily be used to block social-media commentary the government doesn'tlike.

In Oman this fall, six people were jailed for defaming the state on Facebook. That came after theNational Human Rights Commission of Oman(an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) labeled those posts and others "negative writings that violate Islamicprinciples."

Nearby, Bahrain is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, it jailed a human-rights advocate for tweeting criticism of the nation's tyrannical prime minister. Then authorities arrested four more Bahrainis for Twitter posts considered to be critical of theking.

At the same time, though, the government allowed one of the state's biggest companies, a telecom provider named Zain Bahrain, to sponsor a major business conference there, undoubtedly because it will be quite profitable for the island's hotels, restaurants and other travel-relatedbusinesses.

What was the conference about? Its title: The Social Media MastersForum.

Write your comment (31)





Belarusian Weather Forecast

   25.10   26.10 
Brest +5
Vicebsk  0
Homel +3
Hrodna +4
Minsk +2
Mahiliou +1

Exchange Rates of the National Bank



In everyones memory

In everyones memory

Irina Khalip

Lukashenka is another Girkin

Lukashenka is another Girkin

Natallya Radzina

To walk into Peace Square

To walk into Peace Square

Natalya Radzina

Ordinary dictator

Ordinary dictator

Yuri Khashchevatski

Kolkhoz boomerang

Kolkhoz boomerang

Natallia Radzina, Gazeta Wyborcza

Yesterday's statistics:

unique visitors 276401
pageviews 1671058

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31

Old site version

Subscribe in English

Enter your email address: