Whether it is for spreading propaganda to a nation’s populous – or suppressing it – governments have always sought to control new forms of media. From the printing press to the radio and the television, there has been the presence of political powers.
Today’s new media is, of course, the internet. And, it is the most potent form of media yet. However, though the internet’s power to broadly and immediately reach an audience is unparalleled, it is far too large and complex a system to be controlled exclusively by just one group or entity.
Nevertheless, world governments still try to manipulate what they can; however they can.
Recently, the Chinese government has renewed its crusade against the evils of a free internet by placing more responsibility on search engines, like Google and Baidu. What the Chinese government wants is help purging porn and other forms of ‘thought crime’ from their citizens desktops. Moreover, China’s government even seeks to rehabilitate those afflicted with “Internet addiction”.
Meanwhile, following the air attacks on Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces have been releasing video footage of their attacks on Hamas militants by posting on YouTube and Twitter. The IDF claim their intentions are to use the videos to present their perspective, in the conflict, to the world.
Attempts by governments to control information or set boundaries by limiting access to particular content (or websites) have created unprecedented growth for social applications such as Facebook, which is growing by 600,000 users a day, and MySpace to provide an alternate forum for the masses. Who can say what 2009 will bring? May we all look to the future with a measure of enthusiasm and a degree of circumspection.