The limits of Net diplomacy
- By Bryant Jordan
- Oct 29, 2000
The Internet may be able to deliver previously banned or unedited information
into the heart of repressive regimes, but the effects that information
may have are limited.
"As long as a government has the power to shoot you, the truth will
not set you free," said Esther Dyson, an information technology expert and
What the Internet does, she said, is help people find each other, something
that is critical when there is an opportunity to bring about change.
"Let's say a third of the [world's] governments are really bad, a third
are really good and a fairly large number of governments are okay but have
corrupt people in them," she explains. "With a really bad government, there's
not much you can really do but try to overthrow it. The Internet cannot
help you if you're in North Korea."
The Internet as a means of distributing information about current events
or historical facts is less important in open governments such as the United
States and Britain, she said. Where it is most powerful for effecting change
are in those nations in which there may be some corrupt people in power,
but using information to oppose the corruption does not necessarily put
someone at risk of imprisonment or death, Dyson said.
"If you've got a middle situation, the ability to expose wrongdoing
is tremendously important," Dyson said. "In the end, the publishing of the
truth forces governments to tell the truth."