Burmese junta shuts off the Internet (or tries to)
One of the big questions about the Internet is whether governments can control it, and potentially use it to suppress dissent. Quite a few have tried, most notably that of China, and of course we have no idea how much tapping and monitoring the US government has been doing.
Still, recent events in Burma suggest that such attempts may be futile. Despite having had one of the world’s tightest systems of Internet censorship in place for years, the junta there has failed to stem the flow of reports and images out the of the country and has responded by pulling the plug. It’s not clear that this will work, but in any case, it’s not an option open to any country that wants to maintain more than a minimal level of economic activity. It’s not simply a matter of holding things where they were in, say, 1990, before the Internet came along. Attempting to any sort of international business without the Internet is effectively impossible, and the convergence with telephony makes matters even worse. And other info technologies make life even more difficult. A USB Flash drive can hold libraries full of text or hours of compressed video, and they can be duplicated with ease by anyone with a computer. Unless you have completely closed borders, the delay gained by shutting off Internet transmission is no more than a day or so.
It was a lot easier for the old Soviet Union, when photocopiers were the only thing they had to ban (and look how far that got them).
While I’m on the subject, various people have sent me links and info about Burma, mostly related to the position of workers. I haven’t had time to follow them all up, but they may be useful
Burma human rights meeting will take place at 1pm today Friday starting in Queens Park, Brisbane