Section 4: Media & The Internet

Section 4: Media & The Internet

“Do Global Media Create Community or Conflict? … Cyber-Censorship and Political Control of the Internet … Global Communications Governance … The Internet as a Global “Surveillance … Making Connections”
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  • 4. Media & The Internet > Do Global Media Create Community or Conflict? > Lecture
  • 4. Media & The Internet > Cyber-Censorship and Political Control of the Internet > Lecture
  • 4. Media & The Internet > Global Communications Governance > Lecture
  • 4. Media & The Internet > The Internet as a Global
  • 4. Media & The Internet > Making Connections > Interview Video

4. Media & The Internet > Do Global Media Create Community or Conflict? > Lecture

  • The globalization of the media, the American journalist George Packer wrote not long after the 9/11 terror attacks, was supposed to knit the world together.
  • The more information we receive about one another, the thinking went, the more international understanding will prevail.
  • The American media entrepreneur Ted Turner built the Cable News Network, CNN, in the belief that human contact via mass media would resolve conflicts and create goodwill.
  • My main concern, he once said, is to be a benefit to the world, to build up a global communications system that helps humanity come together.
  • Outside the media world, Turner became a committed internationalist, funding the United Nations Foundation with a gift of $1 billion and sponsoring the Goodwill Games, an international athletic competition that was held five times between 1986 and 2001.
  • Countless sounds, images, and virtual reproductions of human experience are exchanged among billions of people in more than 200 different countries.
  • 40 years earlier upon the completion of the first transatlantic telegraph in 1858, the President of the United States, James Buchanan, exchanged messages with Queen Victoria and proclaimed this telegraphic link between continents a triumph more glorious because far more useful to mankind than was ever won by a conqueror on the field of battle.
  • As we will see later in this section, early utopian visions of the internet and its potential for doing good have given way to increasingly distopian views of the internet and its effects.
  • This pessimism includes doubts about mass communications as a potential vehicle of mutual understanding across national and cultural borders.
  • The dramatic appearance of an apparently implacable hostility between Christian and Muslim worlds portended a clash of civilizations against which mass media alone could not possibly prevail.
  • In some ways, global satellite TV and internet access have actually made the world a less understanding, a less tolerant place.
  • What the media provide, he says, is superficial familiarity, images without context, indignation without remedy.
  • The problem isn’t just the content of the media, but the fact that while images become international, people’s lives remain parochial in the Arab world and everywhere else including here.
  • In Packer’s view, mass media contact between politically or culturally estranged populations appeared to be doing more harm than good.
  • The American journalist Thomas Friedman, who has written extensively on globalization, expressed a similar viewpoint on the limited value of media contact in 2002.
  • Looking back over the two decades that have passed since the world wide web went online in 1991, it is clear that what George Packer called the utopian community promised by the boosters of globalization was wishful thinking.
  • The theme of globalization itself encourages magical thinking, because it promises a useful theory of how the world system works and how this global system might be manipulated to serve human ends.

4. Media & The Internet > Cyber-Censorship and Political Control of the Internet > Lecture

  • China has become the global leader in censoring the internet within its own borders.
  • Both China and Russia sell other countries technology for monitoring and filtering the internet.
  • This cyber world is effectively sealed off from the global internet, and can be thought of as an authoritarian response to what the Chinese government calls hostile foreign forces online.
  • What they call purifying the domestic internet space aims at maintaining social stability while fending off political subversion from abroad. In a previous lecture, we heard about the early non-aligned movement of the 1960s and its demand that the Western media powers should no longer exercise their effective monopoly over global mass media.
  • We listened earlier to the debate about internet access between Secretary of State Clinton and Chinese authorities that accompanied the Google China quarrel over internet censorship in 2010.
  • From a Western perspective, Chinese policy regarding the management of the internet is, in a literal sense, totalitarian in its ambition to create a hermetically sealed cybersphere that is immune from foreign influences.
  • As we consider the competing arguments for and against open access to the net, we should keep in mind that the Chinese government is by no means alone in its insistence that every nation state has the right to shape its relationship to the internet in conformity with its own standards.
  • At the World Conference on International Telecommunications, held in Dubai in December of 2012, it became clear that the Chinese model is widely admired by many authoritarian governments that want to custom craft their own versions of restricted and monitored internets that meet their political requirements.
  • Member states shall have the sovereign right to establish and implement public policy, including international policy, on matters of internet governance and to regulate the national internet segment.
  • Member states, it says, shall have equal rights to manage the internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment, and reclamation of internet numbering, naming, addressing, and identification resources.
  • These procedures are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers- ICANN- a private organization headquartered in California that was created in 1998 by the US government to supervise various tasks related to the technical operation of the net.
  • In other words, for many years, the US government had exercised control over the management of internet names and addresses.
  • While this transition appears to reflect the American preference for the privatizing of some public functions, it is hard to overlook the US government’s continuing and unique involvement in the management of the internet.
  • As one data expert wrote in 2005 in Foreign Affairs magazine, the controversy over who controls the internet has simmered in insular technology policy circles for years.
  • Many governments feel that like the phone network, the internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty.

4. Media & The Internet > Global Communications Governance > Lecture

  • These discussions followed a United Nations sponsored proposal for a new international economic order that would create a more equitable economic relationship between the so-called first and third worlds.
  • What became known as the New World Information and Communication Order expressed the aspirations of many developing countries to make the international media system less of a first world monopoly and more responsive to their self defined needs.
  • Third world dependence on first world media programming and technologies was a sensitive political issue.
  • Debate over the new world information and communication order continued throughout the 1970s.
  • The debate we shape to a large extent by the political climate resulting from Cold War hostilities between the Soviet Union and United States.
  • From this perspective, the international controversy over which nations possess the power to flood the world with their versions of news and entertainment reflected a larger struggle.
  • This contest pitted wealthy and technologically advanced societies against less developed and technologically backward societies that we’re constantly being exposed to a wide range of media products over which they had little or no control.
  • UNESCO’s promotion of the New Order was a contributing factor to the departures from UNESCO of the United States in 1984 and the United Kingdom in 1985.
  • The larger context for distrust of the New World Information Order and for the American withdrawal from UNESCO consisted of the Reagan administration’s lack of regard for the forms of multilateral diplomacy, it’s perception of the United Nations as a politicized body, and its disapproval of what it saw as status solutions to political problems.
  • This group, whose 15 members included one American and one Soviet member, had been assigned the task of coming up with a plan to redress the imbalance of power in the world’s media.
  • In his foreword to this document, the Senegalese director general of UNESCO notes that its constitution charges UNESCO with the responsibility for working for the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth and the free exchange of ideas and knowledge in order to increase the means of communication between peoples.
  • During which time, they promoted the interests of the colonial powers, helped to sustain the existing political and economic order, and expanded the commercial and political interests of the metropolitan European powers.
  • Even this rather dispassionate anti colonialism was not welcome among American and British diplomats and politicians who were fed up with UNESCO for multiple reasons.
  • Ironically, the McBride commission itself was an attempt to offer a moderate alternative to the anti imperialist militancy of the nonaligned countries and to forestall any initiatives that might enable UN agencies to set standards for the mass media.
  • McBride himself was an idealistic and anti-racist internationalist who may have been unaware that his report was a pawn in the director general’s strategic game whose purpose was to bring about a compromise between East and West regarding the struggle over mass media.
  • A year after the publication of the McBride report, a group of artists, activists, educators, and media producers in the United States issued the Willow Declaration in support of UNESCO and the New World Information Order.
  • As workers who produce, study, and transmit information, we pledge to change this reality.
  • This political conflict concerns a more advanced technology than the radios and televisions of the 1980s, but these opposing and intransigent political positions are essentially the same as they were back in the days when the New World Information Order was the crisis of the day.
  • Chinese authorities, he said, have limited free speech on the web in China and were blocking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Over the previous year, she said, there had been a spike in threats to the free flow of information around the world in countries such as Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.
  • We urge the US side to respect facts, a foreign ministry spokesman said, and stop using the so-called freedom of the internet to make unjustified accusations against China.
  • The Chinese internet is open, he said, and China is the country witnessing the most active development of the internet.
  • China could point to more than 360 million users, 3.6 million websites, and 180 million blogs.
  • Chinese regulation of the net, he said, was carried out in accordance with the law and its own national conditions and cultural traditions.
  • By sending thousands of students to universities in the United States and elsewhere, by holding countless international conferences on their home soil, by funding study of the Chinese language around the world, by investing in foreign companies and building infrastructure across the globe, China is deeply engaged in a globalization process that takes many forms.
  • That question is, can any society today be economically viable, socially stable, and technologically up to date on a long term basis without opening itself completely to the content of the global media that are out there and are asking to be used and experienced and enjoyed? For those who believe that universal access to information and cultural products from everywhere on Earth should be the core principle of global media governance, China’s current success has got to be a bit disturbing.
  • For China’s army of sensors and those who give them their orders, this marginal loss to the creation of potentially valuable knowledge is nothing more than collateral damage.

  • 4. Media & The Internet > The Internet as a Global “Surveillance Engine” > Lecture
  • In the previous lecture, we were studying a global, and so far a very one sided struggle for control over the internet.
  • American administrative hegemony over the internet is benign compared to the hegemony of intelligence agencies, such as the American National Security Agency, and the British GCHQ over global electronic communications.
  • The NASA’s PRISM operation mines the enormous amounts of data from the giant online internet companies, like Facebook and Google.
  • It’s spies on the telephone and online activity of enormous numbers of both Americans and others.
  • Two of the British spying projects are called Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation.
  • These revelations, provided by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, have enlarged our sense of how we should see and evaluate the internet and its potential.
  • ” While American internet giants like Facebook and Google ingest and store vast amounts of information about people who have chosen to engage with these services, the fact remains that these electronic operations are surveillance engines as well as commercial enterprises.
  • Among the NSA revelations of June 2013 was the once secret partnership between the commercial internet giants and the US intelligence establishment that uses their treasure trove of data.
  • The NSA, GCHQ revelations raise the question whether people do want to live in a world where the dominant intelligence agencies define and enforce the limits of what all other citizens are allowed to know about the mechanisms and misuses of political power.
  • Even in a democracy, a world run by and for intelligence agencies would create an Orwellian soft terror of political intimidation, blackmail, extortion, sadistic harassments, and a criminalization of investigative journalism carried out by faceless and untraceable security bureaucrats.
  • These enormous and previously secret operations have now become part of the global imaginary that shapes our view of what the global internet is, and what it can become.
  • The world now knows, and to a far greater extent than was previously the case, that the internet is a surveillance engine, in addition to its other roles.
  • The making public of what governments regard as state secrets is the nation state’s version of a mortal sin, and states make every effort to track down and punish these heretics.
  • Only days before newspapers around the world began to publish the secret materials made available to them by Edward Snowden, and before information about the collaboration between the major American internet companies and the NSA became known, Assange wrote of what he called the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley.
  • As the secret and strategic use of the internet shows, can also be synonymous with invasion of privacy, and a potential for political intimidation of those who are spied upon.
  • Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who in 1998 issued an international arrest warrant for the former Chilean president, General Augusto Pinochet on charges of torture and murder said, “what is being done to Mr. Snowden and to Mr. Julian Assange for making disclosures in the public interest is an assault against the people.
  • ” From their opposing perspectives, the national security state and the global information activists see the world as a single and unified jurisdiction inside of which only one of two absolute standards must prevail.

4. Media & The Internet > Making Connections > Interview Video

  • What we can say is that for a long time, it has been assumed that new communications technologies that speed up communications between groups of people who are far apart- the expectation is that this is going to promote peace and international harmony.
  • People are expressing themselves on hundreds of thousands of websites- some of them hateful, some of them humanitarian, many, many in between.
  • Why does this kind of technology inspire so much magical thinking about the future of human communications? There is so much technological innovation that seems miraculous- that seems as if only a magician could have created a way, for example, for people to talk to each other through a very thin filament that goes for thousands and thousands of miles.
  • That you can talk into a microphone, and there’s no wire, and people on the other side of the world can hear you.
  • Why do you think the US has made it its agenda to ensure that censorship is not an issue in other countries? The United States of America is supposed to stand for free expression.
  • Since freedom is a powerful, ideologically loaded, and positive term in the American context, then exporting America means, among other things, exporting an American idea about freedom that is taken for granted by American policymakers and politicians to be a good thing.
  • That is a habit of thought that a lot of powerful countries have indulged in, and sometimes to the detriment of the societies the United States or other powerful countries have intervened in.
  • How does media content from foreign sources affect the autonomy of developing countries? One dimension of globalization is an imbalance of power between the countries that produce a lot of culture, a lot of music, a lot of television programming, a lot of films that do well around the world and other countries- sometimes smaller countries, sometimes not smaller countries- that do not compete in the cultural- specifically the popular cultural- market with, for example, the United States.
  • So that there’s an imbalance of power here in terms of what goes out of certain countries and a lot of stuff that comes in to other countries that don’t produce culture in the same volume as the United States or India, which produces almost 1,000 films a year.
  • Years ago, certain Israeli authorities got tired of all of the English language music that was being played on the radio, because that’s what people wanted to hear.
  • There were more cosmopolitan people who said, you must be crazy.
  • Now, the Israeli example is by no means the only example of countries trying to regulate the inflow of cultural content.
  • Even larger and advanced countries, like France or Germany, for example, can feel threatened by cultural exports, including the march of the English language around the world and certainly across Europe.
  • A lot of cultural imports can stimulate anxieties about, are we in charge of society in which we live? Are we in charge of our own identity? Are we in charge of who we are? If we’re only listening to Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, what is the status of native music in country x, y, or z, which did not produce these particular artists? How does this topic of media and technology connect to the other sections in the course? It connects to a variety of other sections.
  • There is a global labor market issue in that the media include the capacity to transmit lots of information and lots of conversations from one side of the Earth to the other.
  • I have in India a reservoir of millions and millions of people who know English very well, who are educated, and who can take over this function.
  • There is a transnational crime dimension to the media in that cybercrime has become a very important type of crime in the world, and it is increasing exponentially.
  • The problem with the internet is that it can connect you to a lot of the wrong people.
  • Thank you for talking to us about media and technology, Dr. Hoberman.

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