Following on from Stephen’s post on Friday about satellite images of the crisis in Burma, I thought I’d talk about another thing that this incident is telling us about our future. As the troubles in Myanmar are continuing, Burmese have been uploading pictures, video and text relating the violence and atrocities to the web. Those outside the country are then spreading these documents to world news and blogs.
Last week, to combat this documentation of their transgressions, the Burmese government shut down many of their internet servers, closing off the pipeline for information to escape the country’s borders. Phones and cameras were smashed on the streets by the military. Although some internet functionality has returned, it’s becoming harder for people to get information out to us looking in, with most journalists refused entry to Burma. One enterprising ABC reporter snuck in to use his mobile phone for reports.
This for me is one of the key battlegrounds of the 21st century. The internet has made information and news freer than ever before. For some governments, companies and services this trends towards too much free information, presenting us with a classic conflict of interest between the user that wants content and those that do not. This week for example, AT&T changed its policy to allow users who criticise the company to be banned. The debate over Network Neutrality is a vital one to keep channels of communication open and help prevent future internet users having less functionality than we do today.
[ photo by Film Colourist ]