Originally published on Battle of Ideas.
Is the internet just another tool in the activists’ toolbox, accelerating normal protests, or has it brought about fundamental changes? If it has, for better or worse? Is it increasing the amount of debate and discussion around protests, or actually making protests more superficial; diminishing what it is to be committed to a cause and estranging campaigners from grassroots concerns? Does the new ‘leaderless’ form of organisation online mark the development of a powerful weapon against the status quo, or instead mean protests are likely to be fleeting, ineffective and chaotic? In his book The Net Delusion, Evgeny Morozov argues that the internet can just as easily be used by governments to counter protests and for increased surveillance and control. Hosni Mubarak’s faltering administration even shut down the internet in Egypt for a week, suggesting it would be a mistake to make activism too dependent on the web.
Is proclaiming ‘It’s Twitter wot won it’ diminishing the hard work and dedication that goes into meaningful protests? Will future revolutions happen online, or do the clicktivists need to put down their laptops and get out more?
David Babbs executive director, 38 degrees, an online campaigning community
Phil Booth director, TRUTH2POWER; entrepreneur; technologist; educator
Paul Mason broadcaster; author, Financial Meltdown and the End of the Age of Greed; technology editor, BBC’s Newsnight
Martyn Perks director, Thinking Apart; co-author Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation
Patrick Hayes head, press and promotions, Institute of Ideas; reporter, spiked; co-founder, IoI Current Affairs Forum