Days after two British men were sentenced to four years in prison for using Facebook to incite disorder that never materialized, Glenn Greenwald writes fluently and concisely about the efforts of governments to maintain power and order by controlling the flow of information and communication online. —ARK
Glenn Greenwald at Salon:
The free flow of information and communications enabled by new technologies—as protest movements in the Middle East and a wave of serious leaks over the last year have demonstrated—is a uniquely potent weapon in challenging entrenched government power and other powerful factions. And that is precisely why those in power—those devoted to preservation of the prevailing social order—are so increasingly fixated on seizing control of it and snuffing out its potential for subverting that order: they are well aware of, and are petrified by, its power, and want to ensure that the ability to dictate how it is used, and toward what ends, remains exclusively in their hands.
The Western World has long righteously denounced China for its attempts to control the Internet as a means of maintaining social order. It even more vocally condemned Arab regimes such as the one in Egypt for shutting down Internet and cell phone service in order to disrupts protests.
But, in the wake of recent riots in London and throughout Britain—a serious upheaval to be sure, but far less disruptive than what happened in the Middle East this year, or what happens routinely in China—the instant reaction of Prime Minister David Cameron was a scheme to force telecoms to allow his government the power to limit the use of Internet and social networking sites. Earlier this week, when San Francisco residents gathered in the BART subway system to protest the shooting by BART police of a 45-year-old man, city officials shut down underground cell phone service entirely for hours; that, in turn, led to hacking reprisals against BART by the hacker collective known as “Anonymous.” As the San-Fransisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation put it on its website: “BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.” Those efforts in Britain and San Fransisco are obviously not yet on the same scale as those in other places, but it illustrates how authorities react to social disorder: with an instinctive desire to control communication technologies and the flow of information.