[LINK] Future conflicts 'to be fought on internet'

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Wed Oct 7 15:41:21 AEDT 2009

I assume the Internet will be used as much for misinformation and 
propaganda as for more veridical information gathering and dissemination.

Nothing really changes, just the delivery mechanism.

Future conflicts 'to be fought on internet'
By Gus Goswell
for ABC News Online

Like many Iranians, Mehran Mortezai turned to the internet for news 
about the violence that swept thriough Tehran after his birth country's 
national election earlier this year.

Mr Mortezai lives and studies in Sydney, but new media platforms gave 
him direct access to protesters in Tehran.

"People used Twitter and Facebook to connect with each other, inform 
each other about what we called the Green Revolution," he said.

"The videos and blogging that people updated on the internet in those 
few days helped other people all over the world to have a good knowledge 
about current issues in Iran."

Mr Mortezai is one of the speakers at the War 2.0: Political Violence 
and New Media symposium at the Australian National University in 
Canberra this week. (Follow on Twitter: #web2pt0)

The symposium examines the way new media technologies have changed 
reporting of war, terrorism and violence.

Mr Mortezai is keen to discuss the impact of platforms such as Twitter 
and YouTube.

"The classic media was someone producing and the audiences just getting 
the information. But the audience is a source of information now."

He singles out the video that showed a young woman dying after being 
shot during protests in central Tehran.

"In Iran, many people took pictures on their mobile phones and uploaded 
them on YouTube and their blogs. That had a very big impact on people 
all over the world."

Helping people connect

Nicholas Farrelly, an associate lecturer at ANU's College of Asia and 
the Pacific, is sitting on a discussion panel with Mr Mortezai as part 
of the conference.

"My sense is that over the past few years there's been a real explosion 
of technologies that give those who have previously been locked out of 
major debates an opportunity to get right involved in the thick of the 
action," Mr Farrelly said.

Mr Farrelly co-founded New Mandala, a blog about south-east Asian politics.

He says new web forums are helping audiences better understand conflict 
and oppression in places like Iran and Burma.

"The interactivity these kind of platforms allow gives us all a 
different sense of just how interconnected we are," he said.

"And when there are blow-ups in a country like Burma, these days those 
blow-ups are transmitted out to the rest of the world and then back into 
the country, escaping many of the filters the Burmese military 
government has in place in an attempt to stop information from flowing.

'With that flow of information it's really inevitable that everybody 
feels that much closer to what's going on.

"That probably down-the-line changes how we perceive political conflict 
and the violence that all to often goes with it."

Mr Farrelly believes this effect is far more powerful than was seen 
during previous eras of reporting.

"I think that what we get through the internet, and particularly in this 
current era of the participatory web, [is] something that goes far 
beyond what television did in the Vietnam era in the United States.

"I think we can all now not only see and hear what goes on in countries 
very far from our own shores, but we can get a a deeper sense based on 
the personal individual elements of these greater political dramas that 
surely will have some impact in terms of how we perceive international 
affairs and global politics.

"I'm not sure that it changes government actions immediately. But 
probably as these technologies become more widely used, and as their 
capabilities become more widely heralded, it's very likely that 
governments will start to consider exactly what something might look 
like when it hits the blogosphere or when it gets a run on Twitter."

Internet war zone

With governments and major players increasingly turning to new media 
technologies to get their messages across, Mr Farrelly sees evidence 
that the internet has become an arena for conflict and violence.

"Even a government of the ilk of the Burmese military regime has 
cottoned on to the fact that using the internet to its advantage is a 
smart move," he said.

"That's the sort of thing that over the next few years I'd expect we'll 
be seeing a great deal more of," he said.

"The internet has become a new battleground for all sorts of social, 
political and economic tensions.

"What we see in some of the countries of mainland south-east Asia is the 
street conflicts, the battles, that do occasionally erupt on our TV 
screens actually being played out day-to-day on the internet, with 
governments and other actors all doing their best to get out their 
message and to influence public opinion."

Mr Mortezai agrees, saying post-election Iran is proof that governments 
of all types are bringing their campaigns to the web.

"[The internet] is kind of like a two-edged sword. It's not always 
pro-democracy, pro-freedom. It could be the other way around.

"[But] there is no centre for internet. That's the reason it's a very 
democratic space. I believe cyberspace is more democratic than reality."

The War 2.0 symposium is being streamed at 

Twitter users can follow updates @War2point0


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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