In repressive regimes, authorities have always sought to silence any opposition in any form. As Simon Columbus discusses in “The New Casualties: Prisons and Persecution,” the Internet has provided activists with a new platform to voice such opposition, and hence, digital activists have emerged. Although Cyberspace was created with the intention of allowing anyone, anywhere, to express his or her beliefs “without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity,” as stated in the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, such has not been the case (166).
Although the Internet allows activists to spread their thoughts and ideas to a mass audience, it does not protect them from being persecuted by the government for doing so. Columbus discusses “Twitter revolutions” in reference to uprisings instigated by the use of digital technologies. Digital activism, however, makes it hard for authorities to locate and target a leader, and thus they have resorted to arresting random individuals as scapegoats. Columbus sums up the effect: “the average citizen starting a group that could possibly participate in action against those in charge soon becomes subject to “state repression” (173). According to Tom Glaisyer in “Political Factors: Digital Activism in Closed and Open Societies,” the response of authoritarian societies such as China and Iran is likely to include their adoption of digital technology for the use of repressing oppositional movements instigated on the Internet. Such digital technology includes surveillance tools, which according to Glaisyer, will likely help repressive governments control digital activists, as well as the population in general.
Although it does not apply to the authoritative governments of other countries, think about the consequences of digital activism in closed societies in terms of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Does the government’s repression of movements instigated on the Internet in such closed societies violate the basic rights to free speech and assembly, as provisioned by the First Amendment?