State Dept to Spend $28 Million to Avoid Internet Crackdowns
The U.S. State Department is set to announce $28 million in grants to help Internet activists, particularly in countries where the governments restrict e-mail and social networks such as those offered by Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Google Inc. (GOOG)
The program, which has drawn Republican criticism and budget cuts, has produced software that is spreading widely in Iran and Syria, helping pro-democracy activists avoid detection, said Dan Baer, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.
[In February, Secretary of State Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University declaring “free and open Internet” as U.S. foreign policy.]
One must proceed with wisdom and caution when outside influences try to “help” grassroots communication. The Internet is one of the most powerful tools given to political organizers, but there are risks involved as well. Each one of us who participates in any online interaction is giving away some aspect of our privacy as well.
Though I consider myself to be a “fan” of social media as a means of social change, there can be a downside. This interview I did with NATO Review explores some of the dangers of social media to social movements.
As some have noted, social change and political activism existed before long social media came on the scene. Social media can’t take credit for what has happened in Tunisia and Egypt, but in my opinion, it has served as a catalyst that speeds up the process and brings events to the world’s attention faster.