The use of the Internet for activism has been widely discussed in the past few years. A few years ago, I watched The Constant Gardener, a movie in which the Internet became the primary tool with which the activist characters fought for their rights.

Over the past yearI have been working with the Berkman Center to develop an online learning program entitled, Copyright for Librarians. Among the course’s main objectives, we intended to provide as much information on copyright in order to inform librarians from over fifty different countries on various copyright issues and how it was being dealt with around the world. Among our goals, we aimed to equip librarian activists with the necessary toolswith which to assist their countries in formulating better copyright policies.

So for this purpose, the Internet has been effective: It allows us to raise our voices, to mobilize the masses, and to propel change on a global scale.

It almost seems too easy. However, thinking of the Internet as an inclusive tool, that allows everyone, with absolutely no barriers, to voice their opinions, might be too good to be true.

Not long ago, a blogger named Zhou Shuguang was barred from leaving China, as an innitiative of national security. According to Wikipedia, “Zhou advocates further reform in China and as a result travels around the country documenting cases of injustice” that are uploaded in his blog, and hosted on US’s servers. This would be an example of how the use of Internet can be used, especially by governments, to work in opposition to activists.

What worries me is that as digital natives, we are always shown that the Internet works as a safe and strong tool for people to work as activists. But the Internet is also a massive tool for classifying people around the world, associating us with our digital dossiers. . So to what extent is activism on the Internet a positive thing and when does it start to become a dangerous trap for activists?

At the same time that the Internet opens possibilities for us to be heard, are we really heading a more democratic world in which people have the right to be voiced? Wouldn’t the Internet work the same way as any other mass media devices, as filtering tools controlled by governments?

– andré valle

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