17 June 2009

Behind the Lines- Using Technology to Fight Oppression

The world is changing and for some it's turned into a fast paced, adrenaline rush of meaningless Twitter babble and adult ADD (guilty). For a while, I've been skeptical of the overall social benefit of technology. When you analyze how many Facebook friends people have vs. real-life friends, or how often we IM someone who's standing in close proximity it seems like we have a serious problem. But, this week I've been inspired by the pulse of social media and its ability to transcend oppression and empower the individual to speak out against injustice- and be heard.

We've all heard about the elections in Iran, so I'm not going to start there. This morning, I came across an article about a Chinese girl who stabbed a man to death when he tried to rape her. He was a Communist official and she was promptly thrown in jail. A blogger got wind of the story and rallied an "online outcry." Here's a snippet from the NYT article:

The case of Ms. Deng is only the most recent and prominent of several cases in which the Internet has cracked open a channel for citizens to voice mass displeasure with official conduct, demonstrating its potential as a catalyst for social change.

The government’s reactions have raised questions about how much power officials have to control what they call “online mass incidents.” China’s estimated 300 million Internet users, experts say, are awakening to the idea that, even in authoritarian China, they sometimes can fight City Hall.

It's pretty amazing that despite the closing of TV stations, shutting down the Internet and arresting protesters, the truth can still prevail. Deng's story reminds me that - despite how bleak and irrational the world can seem - people will fight for justice and truth.

Since the word broke out about Ahmadinejad's "victory" in the Iranian elections, something has caught fire in the Iranian people that has laid dormant for 3 decades and technology has been the catalyst. For this fight, there are few journalists on the ground- instead reports are coming from amateurs on the ground who leak rocky shots of protesters being beaten. After I stumbled across the Twitter #IranElection filter yesterday, my stream updated with 169 tweets in ONE seconds- many of which spoke of people on balconies watching the rallies, others which gave the world instructions on how to help. Inspired, I wrote an email to my dear friend (whose name I will not reveal, for her safety) and asked if she and her husband were okay. I would like to share her email with you, but first I'd like you to take a moment to think about this:

In this moment- I am sharing with you a letter from half-way across the world. I will embed this link into a number of social network profiles and broadcast the hell out of it. Within seconds, this post will be searchable, tangible and immortal for whoever chooses to seek it. This is the power of technology - and in this case, it's fighting oppression against the individual.

Dear Emily
Thank you for your email and your attention. Nowadays we are fine, of course physically but spiritually, what can I say.....!!!

It is so nice that the world can hear our voice. This is the voice of real Iranians who are tired of hearing lies from the authorities. The result of presidency is a big mistake which makes us upset and aggressive. We think that this is our human right to choose our president by ourselves, but our votes were not their favorite so they changed it and it is not acceptable for us.

The situation is so taught . I myself try to follow all news minutes by minutes. In my life and in my country, I have never seen something like state. In all protests, people try to stay calm , but unfortunately the opposition side are so nervous and uncontrollable .

We want just to know that " WHERE ARE OUR VOTES ???"
Is it difficult to understand???

Hope one day, everyone lives in a peace and safe world .
again thank you
Big Hug .......VIVA

In our little Silicon Bubble of glossy icons and over-communication, it's truly inspiring to see technology give voice to those that are silenced by their governments. We're reaching an unprecedented era of accountability, where the people are informed and empowered to voice their opinions about the actions of their leadership. But, as we all know from Marvel comics, with great power comes great responsibility. We as individuals have to realize that our leaders- from Obama to Putin, Kim Yong II to Netanyahu reflect our voice and it's our job to exercise it.

* photos taken from the New York Times

1 comment:

brad said...

nice post, em.