Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

The Internet – A Tool of Power and Control

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Information wants to be free

Information wants to be free.

The world has discovered much over the course of time and people have evolved much more sophisticated social organs. However, the tendency for people never to fully trust each other has also increased over the course of history. Look at history and we are sure to notice a pattern of conspiracies and biased dialogue that has its roots in the network of spies that ancient kingdoms used to deploy to monitor the movements of both their allies and enemies. Such practices have remained unchanged and are not expected to change over time either. The name given to these special spies, though, has changed to ‘protected diplomats’. For any country it would surprising to discover that their ally’s protected diplomats had been sent there with the malicious purpose of spying or influencing interests. But are we all that naive?

It wouldn’t be fair to say that all countries stoop to this practice but I personally believe that every country does in one way or the other.  It would, perhaps, be shocking  for citizens of respected democratic states to discover that foreign forces were influencing their lives in small but meaningful ways. It’s a universal issue and one that is highly controversial by its nature and though its sheer audacity.

From its origins on the most accessible platform of the World Wide Web in 2006 ,Wikileaks has been bashing and thrashing American and Western reputations with hundreds of thousands of war diaries and death records and videos made public that had previously been secreted from the world as classified files seen only by scheming eyes. In 2011, the Wikileaks website along with its giant media partners released a series of diplomatic cables that affected almost every country in the Middle East directly or indirectly, and that might well have provoked shudders in many authoritarian dictatorships to judge from their flurrys of hasty press conferences and denials of the reports.

Wikileaks is just one source, but undoubtedly the most daring of those tools on the internet which uncover the menacing truth about your friendly neighborhood states and reveal conflict of interests. From how peace-loving Muslim countries and Israel want to end the controversial Iranian nuclear program by force to how the Pakistani government is but a puppet in the hands of its military.They also divulged how the mess created in Iraq and Afghanistan was covered up by Western nations and how cruel and inhumane actions were buried in the secrecy of the details. But what I find even more surprising is how the world’s worst crimes are only talked about in secret conversations and never mentioned in places where serious action could be taken against them.

Wikileaks also shows how the peace-keeping organizations are helpless puppets of those funding their activities.

The Internet has now become a weapon capable of creating and destroying. Knowledge is power and when this power becomes the weapon of ordinary people, great powerful authoritarians or monarchs cannot do much against its wrath. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are only just two examples of such power – the power of knowledge and the power of the internet.

The internet has empowered people, it has empowered nations, bridged gaps and brought the world together. However it is now being used to tear the world apart. It is being used to instill hate into people, it is being used to defraud the population, it is being used to misled the people. There is a need to put a check on the internet but the question is not how to do it but rather who is going to do it? Do we trust each other? No I do not think we do. The majority of the world’s population is ignorant – ignorant of the fact that their lives are controlled by ideas. Ideas that are not their own anymore. They do not realize that they have been turned into tools. And the internet and many other forces are in control. So who do we trust? Who do we trust with this powerful weapon? Would it be wise to put a lock on the internet, but then again who can we trust with the key?

The hundreds of thousands of cables have endless stories and secrets to tell – secrets that were kept well off the public radar – and their effects has been predictable and far reaching. People were stirred by these cables and the secret documents illegally brought to public attention. Julian Assange the founder of Wikileaks even goes as far as to believe that many of the Arab revolts were due to the revelations he made to the world. So am I right in saying that Julian Assange in a way determined the course of history as he saw fit? Whatever the answer to this question may be, knowledge definitely shows its power here.

This truly shows that the world is on the verge of a new era. An era marked by global control.  What is being hidden today will sooner or later be made public for personal or social or economic gains – no one can be sure. All Gaddafi’s gold could not save him from the wrath of his own people when the internet gave them control. The oppression of the rulers of Egypt could not help them keep their authority when the internet fought for the rights of the people. So what controls us now?  Knowledge and ideas or the ideologies that are being thrust upon us.

Imagine if some years from now the internet speaks out about how democracy is only oppressing the people? What would we do then? Would we stand up for our rights and remove the politicians who are ruling us now? Yes, I think we might!

The Internet is a powerful weapon which has proven its capabilities. It has taken down regimes, helped prevent wars, has brought the whole world together and yet somewhat taken it apart. No matter how much you try to hide your secrets, the internet will let them all out or someone else will, and they will be let out in a manner that will surprise you. It will take lives, it will cause harm, it will help people but it will always be a tool of intellectual control. A tool open to everyone but then again not for everyone.

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Muhammad Bilal Khalid Twitter: BilalKhalidi

Muhammad Bilal Khalid is from Lahore, Pakistan. He is currently working as a volunteer and youth activist at various organisations including YES Alumni Pakistan and DFID empowering the nation and the youth of Pakistan through different projects and opportunities. He has been a part of a political party's student federation and has taken part in making policies that directly or indirectly would effect the future of youth in Pakistan. Muhammad Bilal has been actively participating in climate workshops and has volunteered briefly with WWF to preserve the endangered wild life. He also has been a Student Ambassador to England and the United States on two exchange programs representing the culture and norms of the Pakistani Society and exchanging ideas to bring about a better change in Pakistan. Bilal also takes part in Model United Nations to keep up with international events and he keeps on working to empower the youth and help them reach their maximum potential in Pakistan.