When I wrote about this idea a few weeks ago, I realized the term had been used before – by Evgeny Morozov in a Newsweek article. But interestingly, in his article, he never actually mentioned Facebook – focusing mainly on blogs – and the power of the internet in general to organize. What Morozov is writing about is not so much diplomacy – as propaganda – and so his thesis ends up being that the internet enables dictators to spread propaganda more effectively:
That so many governments manipulate the Internet to their advantage—all the while still practicing old-fashioned tactics like throwing bloggers in jail—suggests that those who hoped to use cyberspace to promote democracy and American ideals on the cheap may be in for a tough fight. If anything, the Internet may make their jobs harder.
Bruce Etling at Harvard’s Internet and Democracy blog echoes Morozov’s conclusion – with a slight twist:
This mobilization of ordinary citizens to push government propaganda may be the most successful tactic for governments on the Internet, instead of public relations campaigns like the Bush administration’s failed efforts to ‘rebrand’ the US in the Middle East, or the Kremin hiring of a web-savvy PR firm to promote its agenda.
These two pieces were seemingly written as a counterpoint to the earlier remarks by Undersecretary of State James Glassman about the power of Web 2.0 (including Facebook) to mobilize dissident groups.
What I propose is something a bit different than either Morozov’s or Glassman’s ideas – what I propose is something more akin to a revolution in foreign affairs – as many, many individuals interact with people in foreign countries – developing their own ideas, their own contacts – both being influenced and influencing. I think this is already happening – and will inevitably accelerate – but that the principles on which it happens can be affected – which is why I proposed certain guidelines, and to understand this as a duty of global citizenship.