In war speed is of the essence as the enemy always develops counter measures. So, while the world is pontificating about the amazing power of “social media” Evgeny Morozov explains dictators develop not only increasingly effective counter measures but new sophisticated ways to distribute their own propaganda:
The internet’s contribution to the uprisings in the Middle East has been the subject of vehement (and mostly futile) debate. Ultimately, this argument will be settled by historians, not by technology gurus with half-baked theories. Instead we would all be far better off trying to understand how developments in the Middle East will soon reshape the internet itself.Even in the face of growing protests, Syria has opted for a carrot-and-stick approach: long-running bans on sites like Facebook have been lifted, but outspoken bloggers have been thrown in jail. Others, like Sudan, have cleverly mixed provocation and intimidation, by publicising fake protests online and then arresting those who show up. Even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, beset by problems in the North Caucasus, has decided that shouting down Islamist extremists online is more effective than shutting down their websites.
These, however, are short-term fixes. The real danger is that authoritarian states in the Middle East and elsewhere will now develop more cunning strategies to tame the web. Instead of just blocking critical websites and harassing bloggers, we will face sophisticated internet propaganda, more intense and devastating cyberattacks, and new forms of online surveillance.
Here is an example of a video promoting the idea that the Arab uprising is a sign of the coming of the messiah or the Mahdi. It was “produced in Iran by an organization called ‘Conductors of The Coming’ in collaboration with the Iranian president’s office and the Basij (Iranian paramilitary force).”
For more, see my History News Network blog Deja vu
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