The emergence of the Internet has been accompanied by both negative and positive reactions in terms of its ability to create a democracy. On one hand, Barlow calls for the Internet to be a government-free space in ‘A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace,’ stating that the Internet should be a place where anyone can enter “without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force or station of birth.” Barlow continues to say that legal concepts and government control do not apply to the Internet. While Barlow’s ideas of an uncontrolled/unregulated Internet encourages equality and freedom, two essential components of a democracy, the notion that the Internet permits a democracy is ultimately rejected in Simon Columbus’ ‘The New Causalities: Prisons and Persecution’.
Although the Internet provides people around the world with a tool to communicate and share ideas that could lead to the emergence of new democracies, it does not provide protection for people who share their opinions online. Thus, although we now have access to view websites run by people of all nations, “governments decide what we are allowed to see and, most important, to create” (Columbus). In ‘The New Causalities: Prisons and Persecution,’ Columbus explores the arrests of bloggers all over the world, emphasizing the fact that governments, not citizens, ultimately control the Internet. Along with being able to control the Internet, governments can use the Internet as a way to spy on their citizens. Governments are therefore allowed to silence and censor peoples’ opinions online, using it as a surveillance tool and ultimately preventing the emergence of new democracies around the world. Columbus’ research forces readers to question whether the Internet will ever belong to the people, or whether governments will always have the power to censor and control this mass communication tool.