Facebook: a double agent

maceyk wrote an interesting blog in may 2010 entitled,
“Actual Revolutions….Via Facebook”. The blog talked about how Facebook
has become a forum for protesters (particularly in Egypt) to meet and discuss
protests and other issues in a safe environment. In most cases, these
protesters have limited freedom to do the same thing in reality because
governments crack down on any open forum of known protesters or revolution
groups. Facebook has done so well for these groups that are seeking change in
their countries that their governments are resorting to extreme measures in
order to make sure that any kind of organization is minimized. An article
in the telegraph talks about how the Algerian government moved to shut down
the internet in the capital city Algiers and in other major cities. “The
government doesn’t want us forming crowds through the internet,” said
Rachid Salem, of Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria. The Algerian
government was fearful after seeing both Libya and Egypt’s regimes suffer
greatly due to the organization that Facebook gave to the protesters. The
Algerian government went as far as to delete people’s Facebook accounts in
order to stop them from being able to join discussion groups online.

While Facebook is helping protesters, it is also has been a useful
tool for the governments that are targeted. A blog on the Intel
talks about how governments are spying on activist groups via Facebook
in order to access more information about what their plans are and what message
these groups are sending out to the population. The government has even used Facebook
to identify movement leaders and arrest them before they have a chance to lead
a protest or make a statement to the government. So the protesters in some
regard are back to square one because this once effective way to mobilize
people and discuss issues with the country has now turned against them and is
helping the government catch those they deem problematic faster.

Facebook revolutionized how people socialized and how businesses
worked, but it also changed the way people protested and created another avenue
for discussion for those living in countries where assembly of that kind would
be persecuted. But the same Facebook that helped topple regimes in Libya and
Egypt also helped another in Algeria preserve its dominance over its people. It’s
interesting to see how Facebook holds no allegiance to anyone and is truly beneficial
to anyone who has a username and password.

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8 Responses to Facebook: a double agent

  1. Jordi says:


  2. mike cardinute says:

    What didn’t Facebook revolutionize? Facebook can be used to do about anything and everything you could think of. I’ve seen on TV shows such as cops and other law enforcement agencies using Facebook to find people who are on “wanted lists.”

  3. Slade says:

    I don’t think facebook is a double agent at all. It is a tool for anyone to use. Governments can use it just as much as its people. If protesters were intelligent, they would avoid using things (i.e. Facebook) that governments can track to show who leaders are and find out details about groups starting movements. Groups can popularize movements using facebook, but should be discrete when using it because of the obvious privacy issues shown above. Either way, Facebook is just one of the many tools that an activist can use to start a movement, or a government agent can use to search deeper into a group starting a movement. There are millions of forums and websites started with extremely similar functionality that have created problems as well. Hackers on the forum 4Chan created the groups Anonymous and Lulzsec that have created more and more “hacktivist” movements all over the world. And what is dangerous about these groups is that they can infiltrate governments electronically and do even more damage to governments by releasing information similar to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. If people want more information on what I spoke about let me know. The hyperlink setup is annoying in comments, but I think I may write a blog in the future about this anyway.

    • tesoman says:

      What I meant by double agent is that Facebook can work both for you and against. You are spot on when you say that people should be more wary about how they use the online media, but it was interesting to note in maceyk’s blog that the other side to Facebook was not addressed. The focus was only on how activists and revolutionists were using Facebook for their benefit while totally ignoring the other side of the coin where Facebook makes it a whole lot easier for governments to hone in on who the leaders of such groups are. Mike’s point backs that up in that someone wanted can mistakenly post “meeting up with Deena at the bar tonight.” and the officers would have saved alot of resources in that respect. It is also sad to think that, since their freedom of speech barely exists, these activists who thought they had found an answer to their problems through Facebook essentially have to go back to square one.

  4. eeewald says:

    Organizing a revolution via Facebook is a pretty terrible idea, particularly in countries with oppressive governments. The internet in general is unsafe and Facebook is especially vulnerable to spying. It’s pretty cool that young people are finding innovative ways to change their worlds but Facebook is not the forum in which you want to do this. What they could do is use Facebook to plant misinformation and get the government to investigate false plans. That would be a much better use for Facebook than getting your leaders found out and arrested.

    • tesoman says:

      Facebook is definitely not the best forum for organizing a revolution but having seen its success in Libya as well as Egypt, it is no wonder that the revolutionists in Algeria. I know that facebook has groups that allow in by only invite and such but I suppose it might be too easy for a government worker to make a fake identity and join one of these groups as a sort of “mole”. With there being so much government control within oppressive countries to suppress revolutions, and with the internet creating a global area the government cannot control, is there anything available now that can provide a safe forum for these revolutionists? (I would be interested to know because I cannot think of any)

  5. Jordi says:

    Link to the original post! Find Macey and ask her to comment on your blog. Alex L has done this. Ask him about it… She is Macey Keath.

  6. Jordi says:

    Can Facebook inform its users how to mask or protect their identity from oppressive national governments? If we take seriously not aiding the violation of universal rights, to make a technology tool that helps the oppressors and the oppressed is an ethical choice, but one that favors certain parties. Facebook is not neutral.

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