New Media, New Threats: Authoritarian Regimes Crack Down on Digital Activists
On Friday, January 22, 2010, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to discuss new threats to media in the digital age. Authoritarian regimes are finding new and subtle ways to counter opposition voices and influence the public online. While traditional censorship of the Internet—through blocking or hacking into opposition Web sites and intimidating citizen journalists—remains an ongoing threat, digital media are also becoming a platform to disguise the voice of the government as the voice of the people.
Tactics include providing free Internet service for state-run Web sites and charging for independent sites, or paying citizens to post pro-regime material to overwhelm and counter dissenting views online. These tactics could prove to be highly effective and hard to combat. For example, there are multiple ways to access blocked Web sites, but no clear means to distinguish government spin from independent postings. How can digital activists protect themselves against traditional censorship? How can government influence on the Internet be uncovered? What can civil society organizations, media specialists, and the international community do to adjust to the new threats? ::MORE