Global Village: A Fantasy We Live In

Is the world in its true sense a global village and Internet a global entity?

global-villageFrom super expansive and bulky desktop computers to microcomputers in the form of glasses or wrist watches; my generation can boast of witnessing and experiencing them all.

These developments were taking place on the sidelines of another phenomena – the Internet. Internet was, and is, something  that revolutionized the world that we live in.

In its heyday, there used to be a time when sending an email was magic. Chatting with someone at the other end of the world was an unbelievable proposition.

Things further changed with the advent of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 when the Internet became smarter and started guessing our needs and intentions through our Internet footprints. This gave rise to social media networks and platforms such as Facebook, Orkut, Myspace, Youtube and blogs.

And with all these developments, the use of term “global village” became a norm. From politicians and social scientists to Internet users and students, everyone started pretending to be living in this global village as a global citizen.

Is the world in its true sense a global village and Internet a global entity? I think not!

As a rule of thumb, global means something where the entire globe is included. But on the contrary, not everyone on earth uses the Internet. Moreover, not every country ensures freedom of information or neutrality of the Internet.

According to the latest report published by Reporters without Borders titled Enemies of Internet, more than twenty states are either involved in gross information and rights violations or are under surveillance for being involved in such activities.

Corporations are also involved in such violations. Firms like AmesysBlue Coat Systems, Gamma, Hacking Team, and Trovicor, are among a list of many  that sell products to the governments that are further used for human and information rights violations.

There are countries like Iran and North Korea where the level of Internet filtering is so intense that it blocks literally everything coming in from the outside world. Furthermore, the level of surveillance on news agencies and information sharing bodies makes it hard for the citizens of these states to get unbiased information from the events happening around the world.

There are instances where countries like Pakistan unilaterally ban YouTube on “religious” grounds, hijacking the site’s global server that results in a global blackout of the site. The act in itself is an information rights violation, irrespective of the reasons, as it deprives millions of users from accessing information.

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Furthermore, there are national and multinational laws, agreements and attempts such as those in form of ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA that could give ultimate authority to a few  states where they could take down websites and platforms at will.

But it doesn’t stop here. Things have advanced more than we – the users, or founders of modern Internet, could have ever imagined. Initially, social media networks and search engines were just normal tools used for leisure, networking and information gathering. Now they are active tools used of global information warfare.

This information warfare, actively participated in by sites like Facebook and Google, has revitalized the concept of Bentham’s Panopticon. Edward Snowden, the ex-NSA contractor exposing the global online surveillance, has played a major part in making us believe in this modern Panopticon – where the Internet users are under surveillance without having any knowledge of it.

As Internet users, already contributing towards revenues of online ventures such as Google and Facebook, never in our wildest imaginations had we expected that these ventures would start playing an active role in data privacy infringement and start selling our user data.

Pondering over all these facts, we go back in time and recall the notions of a “free global society” resulting from Internet, where everyone would have security of their data, along with having the right to access whatever information they wish for. And thus we fail to find or affirm these concepts.

This is where our fantasy ends. True that pioneers of the modern Internet would have hoped and vied for an Open Information Global Village. Yet, political interests, global lobbying, and corporate profiteering turned this beautiful dream into a nightmare; such a nightmare, where people working for freedom of information and exposing the information culprits, such as Assange and Snowden, are tagged as State Criminals by the political elites.

Farooq Yousaf is a research analyst, program consultant and editor at the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad. Farooq is also pursuing his higher studies from Erfurt, Germany. Read other articles by Farooq.