Snowden, International Relations and the Transit Lounge….

Published at the East Asia Forum on July 11 2013.   At the time of writing, NSA leaker extraordinaire Edward Snowden sits (as far as we know) between immigration control points in Moscow airport. Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s signals collection mechanisms and targeting of Americans, non-Americans and foreign governments (including US allies) have provoked a huge response in the global media and by those concerned about privacy rights. Snowden has built on Wikileaks’ adventures in diplomatic transparency, laying bare the highly classified skeleton of the most-powerful intelligence collection mechanisms available and their links to US foreign policy goals. The impact of Snowden’s actions forces us to question if there has been a dilution in states’ powers to engage in what Sun Tzu called the ‘divine manipulation of the threads’ essential to victory, power and stability. Is this the beginning of a great unravelling of one of the traditional practices Read more [...]
Posted in Cyber Security, IR Theory and the Internet | Comments Off

Political Protest Online: Burqas, Guy Fawkes and Lady GaGa

Political protest is unsettling. It’s meant to be. Online political protest has been the subject of many column inches and blog posts, particularly since late 2010 when Hillary Clinton outlined her vision for Internet Freedom, Wikileaks spilled a tranche of US diplomatic cables and the ‘Arab Spring’ began with regime change in Tunisia. With a little distance, it’s interesting to look at the outcomes and assess where we are and what has happened over the last few years. Opinions differ; we have the handy new labels of cyber-utopianism, cyber-realism and cyber-scepticism to help us catalogue the analysts but, turning back to the events themselves and the implications for the societies in which they occurred, one thing seems remarkably clear. Online political protest is a source of disruption but not only for the Middle East North African (MENA) states of the Arab Spring - but for Western liberal democracies as well. One of the key themes to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings Read more [...]
Posted in IR Theory and the Internet, The Internet in Global Conflict | Comments Off

The Rohingya and the Viral Ummah

Showing a Rohingya man in front of his burning village, the picture at left and hundreds like it have been shared by millions across social media, blogs and discussion forums as part of a surge of global protests responding to state-supported violence against Burma's long-suffering Rohingya, which erupted in June 2012. Unofficial estimates suggest over 100 people have been killed and between 50,000 and 90,000  displaced. A simple Google image search reveals the volume of online imagery associated with the Rohingya issue, and the fact that the bulk of it has emerged since mid-2012. The level of imagery is striking not only because of the brutality depicted but also because the Rohingya issue has been so far off the global Islamic radar prior to now, despite the fact that violence against the Rohingya has been ongoing since at least 1942. Unlike similar spikes in imagery/video sharing associated with the Koran burnings of 2011, or the Innocence of Muslims video in 2012, the Rohingya imagery Read more [...]
Posted in Social Media, South-East Asia, The Internet in Global Conflict | Comments Off

Repost: Trolling the Caspian

This piece originally appeared on the Canadian International Council's OpenCanada website. Circuit editors Madeline Carr and Sarah Logan presented on viral hatred and online counter-radicalisation at the seventh Internet Governance Forum, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in November 2012. It was a controversial decision from the very beginning. The annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a UN-sponsored multi-stakeholder event fostering discussion of important internet policy issues. Holding this year’s forum in Azerbaijan, with its penchant for locking up anti-government bloggers and an appalling human-rights record, was always going to tread a fine line. Making the location doubly controversial, the forum prefigured an important meeting on internet regulation to be held next month in Dubai. There, the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will debate proposed changes to a major treaty, the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), for the first Read more [...]
Posted in Internet Governance | Comments Off

People Like Us: Rogue Andersonians and Imagined Online Communities

"…  the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion." (Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, 2006, 6) What links far-right extremist Anders Breivik, Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones, Innocence of Muslims producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (right) and Fort Hood murderer Nidal Hassan? It sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke, but instead points to a conundrum in managing the impact of the Internet on foreign policy: how to manage citizens who act online against their state's foreign policy goals with offline effect? For example, last month’s protests across the Muslim world against the Innocence of Muslims saw Nakoula essentially became a foreign policy actor working outside the control of his state and to the detriment of its foreign policy goals. Although the impact of the Internet on actual offline protest should never be assumed uncritically, Read more [...]
Posted in IR Theory and the Internet | 1 Comment

Rausim! Social media and political protest in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s recent political upheavals follow an upsurge in the use of mobile phones, the internet and social media since the country’s telecommunications sector was deregulated in 2007. Mobile networks have expanded exponentially over the past five years to now cover some 75% of the country’s population. Phone ownership has increased apace, and some estimates suggest that over 30% of the population now has a mobile phone, dwarfing the number of fixed line connections. Internet penetration is still relatively low, at approximately two per cent of the population, but increasing numbers of Papua New Guineans are accessing the internet via mobile phones following the introduction last year of a mobile broadband service. Papua New Guineans are also using social media in ever increasing numbers. There are over 80,000 facebook members in PNG, mostly under 40, and this figure has doubled over the past year. Statistics on twitter users are less readily available, but the #PNG and #OccupyWaigani Read more [...]
Posted in Censorship, Fragile States, ICT4Dev, Papua New Guinea | 3 Comments

Repost: Twitter and Corporate Politics

This is a repost of a piece I wrote for the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific, published initially here. It is a bit more journalistic than Circuit's usual style, but may be of interest. Next month, we'll bring you a piece on social media in Papua New Guinea - fascinating, and so important given recent political scandals in that country and the general election later this year. Twitter’s recently announced censorship policy essentially allows governments with a ‘valid and applicable legal order’ to ask Twitter to remove certain tweets because they violate local laws. Doing so would mean that while those tweets were still visible by users outside that country, users within it could not see them, thus defusing any domestic impact. Managing social media is an ongoing concern for many states, and  Twitterphobes like China and Russia were quick to follow Thailand’s initial rush to endorse the policy publically.  Thailand’s support for the Read more [...]
Posted in Censorship, South-East Asia | Comments Off

Book Review: Access Contested: Security, Identity and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace

We have one copy of this excellent book to give away – just scroll down and leave a comment to enter the draw! Last week Thailand became the first country in the world to endorse Twitter’s new censorship policy. Despite the fact that this policy may not be as draconian as it first appears, the Thai government’s speed in applauding it is telling. It speaks to both the government’s appreciation of the political power of the internet and its understanding of the fact that it cannot control the relationship between its citizens and the internet alone but needs the assistance of social media giants like Twitter. Access Contested: Security, Identity and Resistance in Cyberspace, the third edited volume published by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), deals precisely with this issue of ‘co-constituted’ control of the political impact of the internet. ONI’s brief is to ‘investigate, expose and analyse Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan Read more [...]
Posted in Censorship, Internet Governance, Social Media, South-East Asia | 12 Comments

Singapore online: speaking up and acting out?

This post is co-authored with Natasha Cowan of Flinders University Organised via Facebook, the recent Occupy Singapore protest failed to attract any actual protestors, leaving foreign journalists disconsolate in their search for evidence of Singapore’s newly thriving political sphere. More interesting though is that the protest was organised at all given Singapore’s history of repressive politics.   It says much about the impact of recent political reforms, particularly as they relate to online politicking and offline action in a highly controlled media environment with an almost 100% internet penetration rate. The May 2011 general elections were the most competitive to date, demonstrating  practical effect of electoral rules relaxed in 2009 to allow significant and meaningful participation by opposition parties for the first time. In addition, political discourse flourished online as the government lifted restrictions on political advertising and the use of video, multimedia Read more [...]
Posted in Censorship, Social Media, South-East Asia | 2 Comments

Digital Diasporas: Politics by Proxy

The State department’s diaspora 2.0 initiative, part of the recently initiated International Diaspora Engagement Alliance Initiative (IdEA), links the political and economic power of so-called digital diasporas to US foreign policy goals – the first time a major power has harnessed this concept so overtly. Recent events have brought the political part of this role sharply into focus: digital diasporas have been important actors in recent events in Egypt, Libya and Syria as well as in recent anticorruption protests in India. The digital component of these diasporas facilitates and intensifies the focus of their often already significant influence. But it's not always easy to classify digital diasporas in terms of this influence, which can be benign or otherwise. Research on digital diasporas and their role in political activity in source countries stretches back to the early days of the Internet. Some authors focus on the role of diasporas in facilitating good governance in source Read more [...]
Posted in Diasporas, Fragile States | 2 Comments