People Power

Polish parliament opposition against ACTA

The Kremlin is not amused. Before, during and after the recent elections the Russian government has had to face stiff opposition from the population, who use social media to make their views public and discuss corruption etc.   40% of he Russian population are online and they are relatively very active in the sense of time spent on Internet, on which they are building a virtual civil society. Critique is not directly at the outcome of the election but at the silly ways in which the officials thought they could fool the public. Russians do not want to be treated like innocent children anymore. Nor do the digital native children. The Kremlin still think they can govern the country by having an iron grip on TV channels and other broadcasting media like the press. But those days are over.

The same hard lesson applies to the American Senate. On The Hill the lawmakers have had the instruction to “avoid being SOPA’d”, still shocked.

And European governing people seem also still baffled and frightened by the speed, content and  effectiveness of the social media reactions to the proposed ACTA law. More than a month (!) (possibly because of lenghty internal infighting over who’s competence it is) after these protests in a number of European countries the European Commission gave an official response:   The Commissioners said that they BLAME Social Media (Social Networks) for the failure of ACTA !! In the words of President of the Commission Barroso: “the intensity  and scale of the public debate and the ORGANISED CAMPAIGN against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement(ACTA).  And they will start actions to get better communication with the public and to get the European Court to express support of this EU legislation process.

It seems that European leaders,  USA Senators and the Kremlin did not get the message yet. Their power is based on a slow, outdated and not very well informed hierarchical structure as compared to online connected people power, who disobey if necessary. This fact is demonstrated again and again after unfortunate sudden and unexpected disasters. Like the flodd in New Orleans or the earthquake in China’s heartland. It took sometimes weeks for the government excecutives even to arrive at the scene, while online civilians had already reported on the situation, made lists of missing persons and helped organize food and shelter aid. Social media are not an Evil Conspiracy but an effective tool for constructive democracy in action. Yes sooner or later the population will stop to listen to propaganda and commands that do not make sense.

Clay Shirkey has explained the background process that is at work. The first phase of “communication” between governments and population is broadcasting of messages prepared by spin doctors, ukases, and instructions; one way to the subjects. Most EU, USA and RUS government people are still in this mindset. The second phase, successfully employed for instance during the Obama campaign, is to introduce central <—> local volunteers dialogue, two way communication, with the help of Internet.  What does happen then and often unforeseen and not always really welcome by the central controlaholics is that the volunteers, not only activists, many of them well educated and able civilians of the middle classes, start to discuss things together P2P directly using social media.

And when certain things are perceived to go wrong, as in the cases of SOPA/PIPA and ACTA they together intervene with huge power and impact.  People power.

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