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Blog 12: Big Brother Society – Public Policies and Information Technology


November 19, 2006

Blog 11: Internet a Haven for Political Crisis?

Internet and politics are closely related. Whether used to spread opinions and news, or the topic of discussions regarding censorship, there is a close connection between the two. In fact, Tony Blair’s strategy advisor, Matthew Taylor, recently spoke of fears that the internet may be “fuelling a ‘crisis’ between politicians and voters.” His advisor noted the benefits of the internet, and spoke of it as a way for politicians to be “more open and accountable.” Blogs and online interviews provided these benefits for constituents. (Click here)

The concern is that the internet community may be using the internet to “abuse politicians or make ‘incommensurate demands’...[instead of] encouraging the general public to use the internet to ‘solve problems.’” He claimed that modern politics focused on quality of life, and these changes were especially apparent amongst teenagers who were among the primary users in this new IT age.

While blogs were a positive way for people of all sorts to reach the general public, there were increasing concerns as the new attitude towards politics is becoming that politicians are out to get and take advantage of you. One of the main concerns he noted was that a major IT attitude centered on anti-establishment and libertarianism as people want more power.

Mr. Taylor recently said that in the changing culture, “it's important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise.” He strongly feels that technology should be used to improve the relationship and communication between politicians and voters.

It is very easy to see Mr. Taylor’s point. We agree that the internet is frequently abused. Online “jokes” criticize politicians and can indirectly lead to negative publicity and smear campaigns. However, in a free society it is important to understand that all of this is going to occur. People will always voice there radical opinions, however right or wrong they are. Younger generations will also always be “rebellious.” Free speech grants everyone the right to say what they wish, and in the US this even means allowing racist groups such as the KKK to have a website.

Also, the internet can reach an extremely large group of people at a very rapid rate. This allows ideas to quickly be passed on and spread from one individual to another. There is some inherent risk in this, as it does allow for the risk of radical views and opinions. But again, this falls upon the responsibility and maturity of individuals to know what is right and wrong. Society also plays a large role in this.

The main political issues we see with the internet concern countries that are on the brink of revolution or instable. In such places the internet can allow individuals, radicals or not, to reach out to others. It also allows for the spread of propaganda, which with instability can have horrible effects. This would especially be of concern in the Middle East, where the spread of political ideas can lead to political outbreaks and attacks between various groups. It also allows the spread of negative, racist attitudes, which can hurt an entire ethnicity or culture as whole. This is where responsibility comes into play.

At the same time, it is the responsibility of internet users to not abuse their rights. It is clear that some individuals do take this too far and can stir up unnecessary problems. The web is a way to express opinions and ideas, but people should be responsible and respectful. People may have strong opinions but when high officials and others try and better communicate with the public people cannot abuse this opportunity.

It is easy to see both sides of the argument, and in the end it comes down simply to responsibility. Jokes and negative views will always be expressed, as will positive ones. The main idea is that individuals need to separate fact from fiction and know when not to joke around and take things seriously. With issues such as censorship, and governments and societies adding fuel to the internet debate, it is important that people work together to make the internet a better, safer place that can in the future lead to a complete integration and globalization of all cultures, countries, and societies.

Posted by wienma at November 19, 2006 03:57 PM


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