You're Talking a Lot, But You're Not Saying Anything

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How does commentary affect the world around us?

Can Online Communities Prevent Disaster? Deal with It Successfully?

Iran recently followed in China’s footsteps and blocked online communication tools like Twitter and Facebook in the aftermath of its disputed presidential election. China blocked these tools to suppress the memorialization of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, while Iran is taking this step in an environment that some speculate may escalate to Tianenmen proportions.

These countries’ dual blocking of important communication tools suggest that such tools may have become crucial to fostering a democratic society. Amartya Sen‘s famous theorization that democracies do not experience famine presents an interesting correlation here. Does online communication foster democratic tendencies, and thus threaten authoritarian regimes? Is our ability to communicate easily, for (nearly) free, on a regular (perhaps even too frequent) basis what keeps our society functional?

Though Cass Sunstein worries that the internet is too polarizing, allowing people to focus solely on sites that promote or support their own political opinions, it’s clear that the internet is also a tool for obtaining and exchanging new information. If online communities only fostered what people already thought (or were forced to think), would governments be so scared of them?

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