On the 8th of August 2013, these words came out of Bill Gates, a major player in the tech industry and a billionaire because of it. His words show the immense structure, and scale of the digital world as we know it. Surely, such an opportunistic land will attract those who can benefit from it. That is why we see a thousand advertisements, YouTube jesters and other shenanigans every day. Businesses know the advantages of a well-structured tweet, and the beauty of an unskippable YouTube ad but beauty is subjective; And some find the vulnerabilities and dark sides of the internet to be more beautiful. That is where cyberpolitics comes in.
The term ‘cyberpolitics’ erects within itself pillars upon pillars of complex jargon and concepts to keep the layman away. To understand the meaning of it however, we need to break away the prefix from the suffix; cyber means virtual reality and the meaning of politics is well-understood by anyone as per their own precision. The concept of cyberpolitics has emerged and advanced in the era of globalization. Cyberpolitics fits journalism, blogging, documenting, recruiting volunteers, building organizations, setting norms and trends into a box. The phenomena of cyberpolitics came with the internet, however, it took time to figure out the impact it could make. The realization came when an American politician used cyber sources to run his campaign and conquered the elections. The name of the politician died however the methodology he used stayed in the minds of intellects. As time passed, the internet became accessible to everyone and cyberpolitics became more powerful.
“Journalism is the first rough draft of history” says Phillip L. Graham, the Co-Owner of Washington Post, a daily newspaper that has settled itself well within the playground of the cyber world. Having more than 800 journalists writing around the clock for its ultra-successful website. The internet has many opinions written on its walls, from politically correct ones to racism filled rants. Anyone will find a community for themselves. They will find likeminded people sharing similar ideologies. While it is true that most of the internet has gotten a swift blow by censorship and the cancel culture, it has not eliminated the problems entirely. When racist, dark humour communities were removed from Reddit, all of them moved to a less regulated website like 4chan and 8kun. Back to Phillip’s original quote, he talks about history. Back in the day, we had little to go off of when researching history. We would study old writings and come up with adequate theories regarding how people used to live before us. Now however, the ground has changed. We have a thousand archives recording what happens around us in real time and should that fail we have a million people available ready to tell you the story of how their favourite historical event went down. Even now, when you go to the comments section of a song made in the 1970s, you will realize that the storytellers you find on there each remember the 70s differently. It is all subjective however, and it would be better to source off an actual esteemed organization for reliable information, but the point is that we have a lot of information to go off of. This can be a severe slippery slope too in the age of information, you never know who to trust and which information is from a reliable source. The quantity has increased but the quality had to take the sacrifice for the increment.
Now let us talk about such a massive power being exploited by the governments and the consequences of it. Firstly, we will discuss classification and shady deals that would have gone unnoticed had not it been exposed on the internet.
The early internet was like the play area of an esteemed fast-food restaurant, nothing ever seemed out of place or was in the wrong but then in 2007 something drastic happened. Something that made news anchors visibly disturbed while delivering it to the general public, Wikileaks. Thousands of declassified documents in the form of journals, emails and screenshots came forward filled with scandals, war crimes and unethical frameworks. Everything from politicians running child prostitution rings to unlawful airstrikes in Baghdad. It showed the people a new face of the world, a dystopia where their favourite leaders were not who they said they were. Years after that, a lot of other exposing happened not only on governmental agendas but for previously unknown crime syndicates and illegal dens. It really makes you wonder; what other stories exist that have not seen the light of day? What has been successfully hidden from the general public. The crimes, the extortions, and the secrets.
Now let’s talk about the other aspect, Governments sabotaging the cyberworld and manipulating it to their advantage.
Russian web brigades, often known as Russian trolls or Russian bots, are Russian government-sponsored anonymous Internet political activists and paid shills. There is an awful lot of proof that other countries also indulge themselves in such acts, but Russia’s involvements are discussed the most. These trolls spread Russian propaganda on the internet, organize rallies and protests between two differing groups and remove any opinion written against the interest of the Russian Federation.
China is another major player on the internet, with the country banning most social media platforms from the West and instead opting to create their own, which keeps a steady check on the citizens and their activities. It is something straight out of a George Orwell masterpiece. One really must question whether they have any sort of privacy while surfing aimlessly on the world wide web.
In 2021, cyberpolitics became a hope for the Palestinians due to the support it received from the people all over the world. The people could read, research, and share everything without making a biased perception. The transparency they experienced that they never did before made them more aware about the situation and on the other side Palestinians also sensed the support. This support became a ray of sunshine for them, they stood together as a nation and continued spreading their side of the story. Even after the ceasefire, they did not stop sharing and documenting while they rebuilt their nation.
Cyberpolitics have become a means of proxy war. It is much easier to gain votes by running a successful online campaign than using old broadcast methods such as cable TV or brochures. It is also cheaper in the long run to do so. The internet, however, has kept a good balance between good and evil. It will only show you what you want to see through recommendation algorithms. Consequently, most people are oblivious to all that is happening on the planet, as they only love to watch cute cat videos and listen to their favourite podcasts. It is a matter of time before a government completely takes over the cyber landscape and burns the global village that Bill Gates talks about. Censorship is the first and foremost thing that needs to go because we cannot give people a false sense of utopia. Once that is gone, tangible actions and procedures need to be ensured. The internet is a double-edged sword and if the common people end up joining arms to eradicate the behaviour they see on the internet, maybe the world shall become a better place.