Early visionaries imagined the internet as a borderless world where the rule of law and the norms of the so-called physical world did not apply. Free expression and free association were envisioned as entitlements, a feature of cyberspace rather than rights to be asserted.
Creating free space
Many taboos and “red lines” are imposed on offline spaces like newspapers and TV channels in several states in North Africa, as well as many limits on freedom of expression and the right to assembly. It is not easy to establish a newspaper in Libya or a human rights organisation in Algeria or to call for a march in Bahrain.
The recent protests and uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have both been called “Twitter revolutions” and “Facebook revolutions” due to the widespread use of user-generated content (UGC) disseminated over social networks like Facebook and Twitter by protesters, activists and supporters of the protests, as well as by those following the events around the globe. This report investigates the usage and role of UGC and social networking websites in the recent protests and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as well as other cases outside of the region.
Cyberspace is at a watershed moment. Technological transformations have brought about an architectonic change in the communications ecosystem. Cyber crime has exploded to the point of becoming more than a nuisance, but a national security concern. There is a seriously escalating arms race in cyberspace as governments scale up capabilities in their armed forces to fight and win wars in this domain. Telecommunication companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and other private sector actors now actively police the internet.