Growth of the Internet
"As Intifada activities continued on the ground, the Intifada of the Internet began moving away from simply sharing news items and expressing anger over bias articles often located in mainstream western media, to a greater level of networking. Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and their sympathizers began spontaneous yet elaborate channels of contact regarding scheduled protests and rallies, mainly in the United States and Europe. Activists instructed each other where and when pro-Palestinian demonstrations were taking place, how to get there and many other details. Some activists composed special instructions on the most effective styles of demonstrating, while others advised how even small demonstrations can get media attention." The Guardian Newspaper http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,402435,00.html11/24/00
When the Jordanian Government removed an article from pages of the print edition of the Economist distributed in Jordan, Jordanian Journalists found the edition on line, printed copies and faxed or otherwise distributed it widely in Jordan (according to Jonathan Kuttab, a Jordanian Journalist, see Alan Docherty, “Net Journalists Outwit Censors” Wired News, March 13, 1999)
The internet if used in conjunction with other actions is a great tool for human rights activists to affect change in public opinion, in the media, and by policy makers. Due to its nature it also provides for more global actions and is not limited by physical or political barriers.
The Internet provided activists with incredible tools to interconnect, get resources, get educated, and educate other activists. It is important to recognize it as a tool of activism. It is especially a crucial tool for bypassing a controlled mainstream media. The function must, however, transcend being a medium of contact between the activists and advance to be used to:
a) reach out to others to mobilize, network, and increase base of support
b) get and share useful information for activism including background information, news, and announcements
c) directly do activism to people of influence (media, congress, religious groups etc.)
d) coordinate activism on the ground.
e) work in conjunction with other tools of activism
Richard Davis (“The Web of Politics” Oxford University Press, 1999) argues that the Internet has not lived up to its promise of increasing public participation in policy making because politicians started to ignore emails. But this is a shallow and self-limiting interpretation of what this internet revolution is about. Ofcourse, the internet and emails are only effective if used as s supplement and tools for traditional methods of advocacy. These methods must include face-to-face meetings, personal contact, and organizational development, development of resources, media work and so on. The internet by itself cannot accomplish much. Combined with other traditional tools, it becomes a powerful resource.
Internet communications, like any new technology, created both new opportunities and new challenges for activists. First, activists must decide on what the role of the particular communication should be and what will be emphasized or served by such communication. These can include sharing any or a combination of educational posts, announcements of events, discussion on planning activities, debating and dialogue between varied viewpoints, networking and building support for the cause
Once the mission and goals of the group are determined, the tool for communication and the nature of the rules regarding communications can be delineated. There are basically three classes of Internet group communications and we will address each separately: Direct email, listserves, and web based chat rooms.