The first weeks of 2011 have run at top speed concerning news and politics. We have seen major changes in local environments like the retreat of germany’s minister of defence Mr. Guttenberg as well as major and dramatic changes in the arab world. Would it have been possible that these changes had taken place 15 years ago without the internet?
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya just went or are still going through some radical changes forced by the locals. The people did not want to be ruled by their „politicians“ any longer. The source of the demonstrations were in all cases young people who have not seen a future in their own countries for themselves. Unemployment rates among young people were and still are high and getting older alone does not generate jobs either.
These people started to demonstrate for a better future and against their politicians. More and more people joined the demonstrations each and every day. How is that possible in countries were all media are controlled by politicians?
10 – 15 years ago news were spread via newspapers or news on tv once a day. Today we have literally real-time news on the internet via twitter, facebook and news streams. There is no delay of information, everything is available as soon as it happens anywhere. Furthermore news and information is no longer only available from newspapers, radio or tv but from anyone with internet access.
There are a couple of factors which fit together and lead to the situation we currently have in the arab world. First of all the young people discovered the internet as a source of information as well as a plattform to share information e.g. via twitter, youtube and facebook. With these tools it is much easier to organize demonstrations over a long time and to get them going. The regimes of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and others are rather old fashioned with a crucial underestimation of the internet. People can no longer be kept away from free news. Propaganda newspapers and propaganda tv worked as long as the internet was not there. Now people have access to the sources of the internet and come to own conclusions.
China is a giant with a regime well aware of the might of the internet. They shutdown or block homepages with content dealing critical with their country. The regime follows the developments in the arab world with anxiety and react with brutal force to the smallest cell of movements toward an open country. Can the arab wave flood China as well? I think it can and I think China is not the only candidate. Iran is another were people started a first attempt in 2009. With the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in mind and twitter, youtube and facebook as platforms to organize the „riot“ these countries could be next.
So watch out you dictators. The internet is a mean of democracy and a mean to get there.