Thursday, August 14, 2008

Following the Russia-Georgia Conflict Online...

Russia's invasion of the territory known as South Ossetia, in the nation of Georgia, has led to the usual litany of political condemnations and media bashing on all sides. But aside from what you are probably seeing on television and in the mainstream press, here are a couple of new questions for those seeking a fresh angle...

  1. Is Google, of all things, taking sides?

    As the New York Times reported, "Besides the bloody shooting war going on between Georgia and Russia, there’s another, quieter battle going on in cyberspace. The Georgian government is accusing Russia of disabling Georgian Web sites, including the site for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Because of the disruption, the Georgian government began posting the Foreign Ministry’s press dispatches on a public blog-hosting site owned by Google (".

    Surely, Russia views Google, then, as subverting their efforts. While Google is waving the neutral flag of Switzerland, their refusal to take down Georgian government web sites at Russia's request stakes out a clear side in the conflict, whether they like it or not. But in cyberwarfare, who ought to be more scared: Google of Russia? Or Russia of Google?

  2. How is Russian Media Covering the War?

    You've got to love the internet for exposing foreign propaganda for exactly what it is. Pravda, the foremost Russian newspaper, has an article that, among other things, describes how "Georgian troops attempted to storm the city much as Hitler's Panzer divisions blazed through Europe. Also noteworthy is the fact that Georgian tanks and infantry were being aided by Israeli advisors, a true indicator that this conflict was instigated by outside forces."

    It's pretty difficult for even Russian apologists here in the West to defend statements like that. It was one thing to spit propagandist vitriol during the Cold War, but for the general public to be able to easily read such "news" articles online without a filter makes it basically impossible for the Russian government to get away with it unnoticed.

  3. Are Online Discussions Becoming the Best Gauge of Public Opinion?

    If you've spent the last week browsing the web for analysis on the conflict (as some of us with a lot of time on our hands obviously have), what quickly becomes apparent is that online discussion forums give you the best, unfiltered representation of what the public's opinions are at any given moment, to every new development. You may even get a more complete picture of what's occurring than by simply following the major newspapers and broadcast networks. Check out the ongoing discussions on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and even by watching videos on YouTube, and you'll begin to develop an understanding of events and public opinion that no tracking poll could possibly compare to.

All of which kind of makes you wonder about the potential impact that the internet might have had, if it existed, on previous historical events. Just try to imagine the blogosphere running amok during, say, World War II.


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