Wired posted an interesting article on the use of Facebook to circumvent “real world” political repression aimed at suppressing freedom of association:
In a twisted way, though, even the quashed demonstration of May 4 was a success, maybe more so because of Maher’s arrest. For one thing, it illustrated how just a little digital organizing can trigger a resource-sucking counteroffensive from state security. After the non-news of May 4 and the ongoing manhunt for Maher, there has been talk of new censorship legislation. Rights groups say that the bill, if passed, will give a supreme monitoring authority power to arrest anyone involved in the dissemination of information — like starting a Facebook group. (Authorities in Syria have taken a far more direct approach by simply blocking access to Facebook.)
Government retaliation against the youth movement has also embarrassed the regime. Many Egyptian citizens are rooting for the idealistic Facebook kids, and the international media look favorably on their cause, or at least tend to portray the activists as David to the regime’s Goliath: “fledgling rebellion on facebook is struck down by force in egypt” (The Washington Post), “crackdown on facebook activists” (Los Angeles Times blog), “egypt detains facebook activists — again” (The Christian Science Monitor), “egypt faces new media censorship” (Al Jazeera). Not exactly flattering headlines for one of America’s best friends in the Middle East.
…Maher’s star has risen. His real-world profile is now high enough that torturing him could backfire, inspiring countless networked young people to take action. The last thing Hosni Mubarak needs is to turn this Facebooking regular guy into a full-fledged hero.
Check out the full article.