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Challenges and opportunities for freedom of expression in the networked environment

Civil Society - the debate

info: Submitted by Lisa Horner on Wed, 2006-11-15 12:14.

In civil society, does the networked communications environment increase our ability to act together for change?

Yes.

Digital communications empower civil society organisations because they reduce the cost and time needed to communicate, across both short and long distances. Civil society organisations can more easily disseminate information via the web and email, so it is easier for them to access funding, mobilise the public and form national, regional and global alliances. This has encouraged the development of a global civil society and the rise of transnational social movements. Groups can more easily share experiences and act together, in the real world as well as in cyberspace. New communications offer civil society new ways of taking action, for example through email and SMS campaigns. They encourage groups to form dispersed networks that are difficult for centralised power structures to resist and destroy.

No.

Social movements that mobilise via new communications are likely to be fragmented and unsustainable. They are made up of people with diverse interests who come together at specific political moments rather than commit to more effective sustained action. New communications may make it easier for groups to engage in peaceful protest but they can also intensify conflict, as subversive groups find it easier to spread socially divisive messages and disinformation. The networked communications environment gives criminal, violent and fundamentalist groups new opportunities to bypass the law. The lack of regulation of the internet makes this an ideal environment for them to communicate, organise and disseminate offensive and dangerous material.

Click on the links below to read project papers addressing these issues.
Activism in the Networked World
The Internet and Civil Society in Singapore