Technological progress contributed to the transformation of communication and thereby promoted the mass participation of citizens in essential political processes. This outcome could not be neglected by the governments, and their involvement in this area followed numerous protests of the population (Tufekci 12). However, the development of a new space modifying the old ways of sharing information resulted in the establishment of new regulations and the threat to the safety of data and, consequently, all citizens (Harris 12). These circumstances attracted the attention of authorities, businesses, and individuals, and the elaboration of innovative measures corresponding to the specified needs became a priority. Therefore, the emergence of the Internet changed the interaction patterns between the government and the private sector, facilitated the organization of social movements, and confirmed the need to combine efforts to ensure cybersecurity.
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Interaction Patterns Between the Government and the Private Sector
In the past, the relationships between the government, the private sector, and individuals were shaped by fear. It was expressed by people who were afraid to discuss the politics even with their relatives, and there was no publicly available information regarding the adverse effects of the authorities’ actions (Tufekci 13). One of the extreme examples of similar situations was the political course of authoritarian states in the Arab world, which was primarily based on censorship and control. In this way, Egyptian newspapers did not report events related to the negative aspect of the government’s activity and, more specifically, avoided mentioning any protests (Tufekci 13). Since there was no way to gain a better understanding of governmental affairs from mass media, people remained ignorant of the actual circumstances of one or another shift. This position led to the impossibility of making an impact on political decisions of the countries with such restrictions. It allowed the governments conducting any policies they saw fit without informing their people of possible negative consequences. However, the emergence of the Internet, among other technological solutions, drastically changed the way citizens and non-governmental entities interact with authorities.
At present, the relationships between the parties are characterized by freedom of expression and opportunities to find like-minded individuals helping promote their views different from the official policies. Thus, the introduction of Facebook in 2009 and the creation of blogs publishing political essays were a turning in this area (Tufekci 18). These resources attracted activists who started to understand that their stances are supported by other citizens and can serve as elements uniting them. From this perspective, the role of the government concerning the spread of information was diminished due to these trends. Meanwhile, the significance of the private sector was established as a result of increasing capabilities. In this regard, the created challenge for all participants of the political processes was the lack of clarity in responsibilities concerning access to previously limited data. Its importance can be explained by the fact that the availability of extensive information about governmental affairs can inevitably lead to social movements and protests. These occasions were complicated due to the absence of experience of the involved people in such matters. Nevertheless, they served as the basis for further developments in citizens’ actions.
Organization of Social Movements
The first attempts to openly criticize the authorities via the Internet resulted in the shift in the organization of social movements. Previously, they were rare and involved significantly fewer participants than after the emergence of technological tools for communication. However, after the described change, the uprisings against authoritarianism and inequality became more frequent and discussed online. For example, the case of protests again Mubarak’s regime in 2011 was first not covered by media because his administration did not consider them important (Tufekci 16). Nevertheless, the neglect of the power of online acts underpinning the movement led to the president’s life imprisonment (Tufekci 17). From this moment on, other similar occasions became matters of concern for the government official who joined discussions on the Internet to provide alternative stances or avoid complications of actual problems. In this way, the communication between the parties became better, but this outcome also indicated the need to pay particular attention to public opinions. Even though their expression lacks organization and is guided by individuals, it presents a serious threat to citizens’ safety.
Considering the above, the role of the government in the regulation of social movements changed from restricting connections alongside alarming data to monitoring their development and proposition of measures to avoid adverse consequences. For instance, the protest in the United States in 2009 known as the Tea Party Patriots against improper use of taxes was addressed through the analysis of online data (Tufekci 12). The governmental employees managed to reveal the patterns of people’s behavior depending on weather conditions in principal locations of unrest and thereby readjust their reaction. The results showed that the protestors from sunny places were more likely to be Republicans, and this information allowed satisfying their demands and eliminate risks (Tufekci 13). From this point of view, the emergence of the Internet posed a new challenge for authorities while providing them with an efficient instrument to resolve the conflicts. This case demonstrates the possibility to use it for the benefit of all citizens as opposed to the improper actions of Mubarak and his administration. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Internet changed the organization of social movements but also presented new tasks for the governments.
The final aspect, which affected the work of the governments and the participation of individuals and the private sector, is the safety and processing of stored information. It is crucial for many areas of their functioning, which is why computer literacy became critical for officials in the first place. This need is contributed by the emergence of a new threat connected to the Internet, which is cyber attacks. They undermined the capability of authorities to protect sensitive information and modified the perceptions of appropriate actions when alarming facts appear. Thus, the crashing of planes into the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 could have been prevented (Harris 20). For this, the government’s employees paid attention to the signals of terrorists in the network of global data interceptors (Harris 20). This case demonstrates their role in protecting citizens, whereas the neglect of online information might have severe consequences for everyone. Even though this influence is of a direct nature, there is also an area presenting a threat to cybersecurity, which is connected to business operations.
The experience of big companies shows the impossibility of coping with the corresponding challenges without outside assistance. Meanwhile, it is not always guaranteed since these events are more complicated than one can possibly imagine. For instance, the critical situation of Google in 2009 when the employees started to suspect the interference of Chinese hackers into their operations was supposed to be addressed at the governmental level (Harris 11). The concerns were related to the fact that the latter obtained access to private Gmail accounts, mostly presenting the opposition to the government in Beijing (Harris 11). Although they were connected to intellectual property, which is a violation of US laws, the actions against the criminals happened to be restricted by specific considerations. They included the impossibility to receive substantial evidence identifying the hackers. This situation showed that the attempts to ensure cybersecurity are frequently balanced by governmental affairs. Moreover, informing the public about such cases seems reasonable, but there is no mechanism of safely presenting the threat without evoking concerns of the population. Thus, this aspect remains the main challenge for authorities related to technological advancements.
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In conclusion, the emergence of the Internet led to the appearance of challenges for the government as well as the private sector. They belong to three categories, which are the patterns of interactions between the parties, organization of social movements, and cybersecurity. The first problem implies the shift from fear of expression to complete freedom, which defines the necessity to elaborate new control mechanisms. The second issue means the improvements in the organization of protests while involving more people and thereby posing a threat to their safety. The third challenge is cybersecurity, which is more complex than the first two outcomes. It encompasses all possibilities for criminals to obtain unauthorized access to sensitive data. They can belong either to businesses or the government, and in both cases, the consequences can be dramatic. Thus, the change triggered by technological progress indicates the need for authorities to reorientate their efforts to promote citizens’ well-being.
Harris, Shane. @War: The Rise of The Military-Internet Complex. Mariner Books, An Eamon Dolan Book, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Tufekci, Zeynep. Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Yale University Press, 2017.