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Communications The Internet Technology

How Killing the Internet Helped Revolutionaries 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the anything-that-gets-people-off-twitter-has-to-help dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In a widely circulated American Political Science Association conference paper, Yale scholar Navid Hassanpour argues that shutting down the internet made things difficult for sustaining a centralized revolutionary movement in Egypt. But, he adds, the shutdown actually encouraged the development of smaller revolutionary uprisings at local levels where the face-to-face interaction between activists was more intense and the mobilization of inactive lukewarm dissidents was easier. In other words, closing down the internet made the revolution more diffuse and more difficult for the authorities to contain." As long as we're on the subject, reader lecheiron points out news of research into predicting revolutions by feeding millions of news articles into a supercomputer and using word analysis to chart national sentiment. So far it's pretty good at predicting things that have already happened, but we should probably wait until it finds something new before contacting Hari Seldon.
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How Killing the Internet Helped Revolutionaries

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  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:19PM (#37357206)
    If you're like me you don't generally like the government I got loads of complaints with the state of the government in the USA but do I really do much about it? No I'm too busy with my job, friends and other stuff. Plus lets face it things aren't that bad here despite all the dire stuff they put on the news. But if the government suddenly turned off my porn and tv shows plus slashdot and various other sites I habitually use I'd be up in arms pounding on my congressman's door maybe even joining a riot if the mood was right.
    • by crow (16139) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:28PM (#37357306) Homepage Journal

      "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

      It's been recognized for generations that people won't rebel against a government for light reasons. As long as people have food and jobs to keep them busy, they'll tolerate quite a bit of oppression.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

        It's been recognized for generations that people won't rebel against a government for light reasons. As long as people have food and jobs to keep them busy, they'll tolerate quite a bit of oppressio

      • by Synerg1y (2169962)

        The internet was the least of their concerns, Egypt had a secret police department similar to the Nazi's... usually when something like this happens, revolt is next, see in America, you can sit on your couch and fear the FBI will bust in and take w/e they came for and take you to jail... not a torture chamber, if your going to die because of your government, might as well do something about it right?

      • "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

        It's been recognized for generations that people won't rebel against a government for light reasons. As long as people have food and jobs to keep them busy, they'll tolerate quite a bit of oppression.

        Indeed -- I think governments in general need a large, complacent middle class, and the Democrats were well on the way to achieving it in the US, until it was undermined by Nixon and the rest of the neo-conservatives who followed after him. Too bad, really -- if the current crop of paleocons and Christian dominionist nutbars have their way, they are going to dismantle all the things that have helped create that large, complacent middle class. If they are successful, America will step off the world stage,

        • There was a large complacent middle class from the very beginning of America... Only about a third of the country, led largely by the upper class, whom had the most to gain but also the most to lose, wanted to revolt against England. Another third, again, largely led by the upper class that were scared to lose, wanted to continue our relationship with England. The final third didn't really care, they just wanted to be left alone to do their thing.

          Anyway, at the time, we had the very wealthy - large plant
      • by Hadlock (143607)

        It's been recognized for generations that people won't rebel against a government for light reasons. As long as people have food and jobs to keep them busy, they'll tolerate quite a bit of oppression.

        Cuba's been extremely successful with this, as has southern Mexico. Liquor prices are suspiciously low in both countries. Hell, if Oaxaca (s. mexico) stopped protesting about being oppressed, they might get worried they were planning some big revolution.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Machtyn (759119)
      Agreed. While our freedoms have not been completely stripped, making us the frog in the slowly boiling water, we have been contented with our current freedoms and, more especially, our conveniences to be able to do anything about anything. Half of us vote, sometimes. Fewer than that know why they are voting for whom they vote. Fewer than that are actually properly informed about the candidates for whom they are voting for and against.

      Still, there is a slow momentum of dissatisfaction with the US gove
      • by osu-neko (2604)

        It seems this pendulum is swinging farther in either direction instead of slowing down to a centrist point so that our leaders can agree on some things and make our society progress.

        This demonstrates the weakness of our two party system. When people are dissatisfied with both parties, they really have nowhere else to turn. So they simply turn against whichever of the two has pissed them off most recently. In communist nations, you can vote, but there's only one party to vote for. In America, there's two which really aren't that far apart on most things, despite their efforts to play up and play on each other's minor differences, making us only slightly more democratic...

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        Well there are plenty out there that don't vote because they know its pointless which it really is. I know every time i'm just throwing my vote away by voting green, but what choice do I have? you have Obama, the biggest spineless sellout the dems have had since Jimmy "I ain't got no backbone!" Carter, and the reps look like they'll run Perry, which is REALLY scary, as the man actually makes dubya look like a good leader. have you SEEN the stats for Texas under Perry? Yikes.

        Oh and sadly the tea party WAS gr

    • by morari (1080535)

      Exactly.

      People will be perfectly content with whatever happens, so long as they have their Feelies and Orgy Porgies. The government doesn't need to burn books when no one bothers to read them in the first place.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday September 09, 2011 @06:08PM (#37357714) Journal

      The government DID turn off my recreation, and is more than happy to incarcerate me for years on end if I just try to have a little fun. From my point of view, there's very little difference between America banning Cannabis and Iran banning western music/TV.

      • The truth comes out! Another hippie gets his door busted down due to Another Moment of Slashdot Honesty! And according to his browser, he'd been looking mighty hard at some of the Sagmartha indica collection at The Attitude Seedbank all summer long! Hide your bong, Hippie! It's not paranoia if the really ARE coming for you!
      • by Rob Kaper (5960)

        The difference is that they ban both, and more.

    • I'd be up in arms pounding on my congressman's door

      I don't actually know where my congressman's door is, and without the internet I'm not sure I'd be able to find it.

    • by bjourne (1034822)

      But if the government suddenly turned off my porn and tv shows plus slashdot and various other sites I habitually use I'd be up in arms pounding on my congressman's door maybe even joining a riot if the mood was right.

      Sounds like a very empty and shallow life if porn and tv shows are the most important things you have.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark@a@craig.gmail@com> on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:20PM (#37357210)

    If some supercomputer analyzed my public writings, it would recognize that I've been keeping the pitchfork I made out of the old plowshare handy by the back door for some time now. I ate the oxen quite a while back when Monsanto took my fields away, so it's not like I had any other use for it.

    • by Surt (22457)

      Pitchforks are less effective against predator drones than you'd imagine. Soon the cost of predators will be so low the US government will have one available to kill every single citizen, should the need arise.

      • by matunos (1587263)

        Ah, but that means every single citizen will be able to afford a predator drone of their own!

        • by osu-neko (2604)

          Ah, but that means every single citizen will be able to afford a predator drone of their own!

          This, in a nutshell, is the serious problem society faces today. Our technology is advancing to the point where individuals can gain power one reserved for nation states. The feared "doomsday weapon" isn't going to be deployed by some trigger happy Cold War general or military accident, it's going to be deployed by someone extremist in his garage.

        • by Flyerman (1728812)

          Unless they decide that drones don't fall under the second amendment.

          • by kbensema (1868742)
            The assumption that rebel forces can obtain only that military hardware their previous government allowed them amuses me. Should a popular overthrow of a government become necessary, the criminal element will supply the weapons. Capitalism is interesting like that.
  • Unless you have a monopoly of that technology and don't use it to predict if your population will revolt, it would not give accurate predictions, as if he predicts something dangerous you will take measures to avoid it. That puts that kind of technology in a gray-to-dark area. Are them instruments of opression for your population or of allied countries? Or to attack/unstabilize another countries if they don't warn about that upcoming events?

    If you guess the future and do nothing about it you are somewhat

    • by Kreigaffe (765218)

      It's not even really predicting anything.

      *PEOPLE* write those articles. People. People know when shit is hitting the fan. People write about shit hitting the fan escalating to larger shit hitting the fan. That's not a computer predicting anything, that's just a computer reading the news and noticing when *PEOPLE* are writing about escalations in shit-fan collisions in certain areas.

      Absolutely none of it is surprising. Most people have been waiting for this to happen in the Middle East for quite some ti

      • by matunos (1587263) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:46PM (#37357506)

        And once oppressive governments try to use such predictions to suppress revolutions, the people will learn to adapt and alter their public speech. For instance, after decades of government control of the media, Egyptians were able to use social networking to vent their frustrations. As governments try to suppress/infiltrate social networking, people will turn to other strategies.

    • by SCPaPaJoe (767952)
      Or the rise of the Foundation!
  • The Internet is loaded with ways for people to distract themselves and find escape. Take that away, and people are both angry about losing their distractions and have a bunch of free time to talk to each other and to look around at the various ways their government mistreats them.
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:25PM (#37357270) Homepage
    Shutting down the internet had two other results: It made people in Egypt who were not involved in the revolution sit up and take notice. This especially applied to some of the higher income people in Cairo who used the internet for both entertainment and business. Also, shutting down the internet made the rest of the world a lot more sympathetic to the Egyptian revolutionaries. Shutting down the internet is such an obvious, massive form of censorship that it immediately becomes clear to a lot of people that the people doing it are doing a bad thing. It wouldn't surprise me if in thirty or forty years shutting down the internet will itself be considered a form of crime against humanity.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      I suppose. Then again we can see what the state of this 'revolution' has gotten. The fast goosestep towards a theocracy.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        Not surprising as it was likely the most authoritarian of the groups involved. As such, they are likely to be fastest at getting organized.

        This is why the Right always seems to have a more coherent direction then the Left, as your more likely to find people accepting authoritarian control there.

  • If BART had left the cellphone repeaters on during the first protest, most of us would have all forgotten about it by now.

    As it stands, there are now protests planned every single week into the indefinite future.

    Not being able to communicate with their phones has not, it seems, prevented the protestors from using the calendar function on their phones...

  • by Meshach (578918) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:31PM (#37357344)
    I think that the Internet is just a means to an end. The people were angry and ready to revolt. Lots of revolutions (Soviet Union dismantling, American Revolution...) happened without the Internet present. When people are angry enough word gets out.
    • by migla (1099771)

      Agreed.

      I've also heard it claimed (On the TV-show Kobra on Swedish public service TV), that it would be more accurate to say these were Al Jazeera revolutions rather than Twitter- or Facebook- or Internet-revolutions, in that access to real journalism (People from the US might want to check out the BBC for an example of what I'm talking about) for the masses had a bigger impact than the speedier communications of whatever percentage of people that would Facebook or Twitter.

      I don't know, but it does sound li

  • ...you know the rest.

    • by migla (1099771)

      ...you know the rest.

      Maims you? Scars you? Pushes you over the edge? Makes you a chronic depressive? Cuts off all your limbs, then tortures and kills your family in front of your eyes? Leaves you in a vegetative state? What!?

      (ps. I know. I just think it's a silly saying.)

      • by matunos (1587263)

        I don't think the saying is meant to be a universal principle, just a saying. In this case, it's perfectly applicable. Shutting off the internet (long enough to round up the perpetrators) may have killed the movement if it hadn't already reached critical mass; instead the organizers adapted and became stronger for it.

    • and that which doesn't make you stronger...

    • ...may still cost you everything that makes it worth living.

    • Hmmm ... laziness doesn't kill you. Does it make you stronger?

      • by matunos (1587263)

        Conservation of energy can have its advantages; but laziness is not an external force. For instance, I would call the intellectual laziness of the unoriginal rejoinders to my comment to be more of a character flaw.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:37PM (#37357406)
    Communication technology goes both ways, it's a tool. There is no simple clear cut answer whether it's good or evil it is equally available. We love to paint things broadly with a black or white brush and that's what's happened after the middle easy uprising and the London riots. One seeing praise for open communication, one seeing suggestions twitter and blackberry PIN messaging should have been turned off.

    In reality really pissed off people will find a way to fight back. Taking a step back here, ultimately cutting off the communication network is not going to do much because that is not the actual cause, rather a mildly helpful catalyst. It's just an easy target for whoever needs to be seen to doing something, and is getting rather desperate.

    Hell, if they cut of my slashdots I'd riot harder.

    Ultimately a savvy dictatorship would use internet, the internet after all doesn't care what it's used for it just pipes your data. Certainly governments and influential organisations, political movements etc use misinformation on the internet and it's useful idiot syndrome to great affect (see Fox news lol).

    Secretly we all know that facebook, twitter and anything blackberry is actually kind of crap. It's just that everyone else is on them, and they seem to work well enough. There's still no substitution for old school word of mouth for your little uprising, which by some measures is more effective. They can't switch that off.
  • Awesome concept (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RobinEggs (1453925) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:46PM (#37357508)
    Very nice concept. We always hear that turning off the internet was effective suppression that protestors nevertheless overcame; this is a brilliant question to ask about another possible result.

    Even pondering this kind of gently contrarion (as opposed to deliberately provocative or 'egdy') research demonstrates more curiousity and academic honesty than a lot of tenured people show in their entire lives.
  • I live in Tunisia... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nrrqshrr (1879148) on Friday September 09, 2011 @06:11PM (#37357748)
    And back then, when Ben Ali was still here and the riots started taking more and more regions, the gov't had the great idea of forbidding people from going to places where they might have the silly idea of "forming" a riot. Thus, football games were stopped, university courses cancelled...
    Predictably, those who used to watch football every Sunday suddenly had nothing to do, and those who were preparing for exams found themselves in holidays... Why not join the riots?
  • So far it's pretty good at predicting things that have already happened

    Just how does that qualify as "prediction"?

  • The research about predicting revolutions is awful. I don't understand how some people in social sciences still get to publish these results without even remotely trying to avoid confirmation bias.

    If you read the research [uic.edu] linked from the BBC story, you can see that they do indeed have some impressive-looking graphics that show how the media reporting changed prior to some revolutions. That's interesting, but it's completely and utterly useless without also taking random samples from other places and times a

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      it's only slightly better than always predicting revolutions whenever you want to make a prediction.

      By this time tomorrow we will have a revolution. Another one shortly after that. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the world will undergo 7 revolutions this week alone.

  • Not as good as "The sheep look up," but apropos.

  • Think about all the time you spend online on twitter, Facebook, Youtube,...Realise that if you did not spend all that time online you would spend it doing something else like getting back at the bastard who just cut off your endless supply of porn, lollcat and meme. Lolll

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