Friday, September 28, 2007

Internet Cut in Myanmar

It’s a frightening concept to Americans and all too familiar to North Koreans. Amid the violence and bloodshed in Myanmar this week as the military clashes with peaceful protests by Buddhist monks, the country’s Internet connection has been severed. The violence that has erupted is tragic and in its third day has not seemed to slow.

Clearly the killings are terrible, but today attention has been paid to Myanmar’s lost connection. The concept of shutting off the Internet, and in many ways cutting off access to the outside world, is troubling. It highlights the reach of the Internet and how important it has become. Email has usurped postage as the primary mode of written conversation, “Googling” information has taken the place of visiting libraries and VoIP has moved phone conversations from telephone lines to Internet connections.

In this case, bloggers posting stories, pictures and video are telling the story of the horrific events in Myanmar. The removal of Internet connectivity has effectively silenced these voices and shut out the rest of the world.

This blog entry could now take any number of paths to explain the severity of this situation:
  • A reminder of the importance of Americans’ freedom of speech and freedom of the press
  • With a global economy and the increase outsourcing, an Internet shut down in another country could hamper American business
  • Yet another example of the “Over There” complex, international stories already lose interest, and if a story cannot be translated into pictures and sound bites it has no chance of being recognized by the American news consumer
  • Blogs, YouTube and all other forms of user-generated content continue to prove vital to the reporting of news
  • Imagine if our government, in the name of national security, halted access to the Internet

All of these topics are important and they’re important for different reasons. Rather than spending time building each argument, I will instead say that on the surface the events in Myanmar tell a story of pain, suffering and tyrannical abuse. But the story goes deeper than that. And by shutting out the rest of the world it is uncertain how deeply the abuse goes and for how much longer it will continue.

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