One day, no one knew him. The next, everyone did. That is what happened in Myanmar (colloquially known as Burma) when all of a sudden people were talking about Donald Trump due to the internet. The World Bank estimates, that less than 1% of the Burmese population had internet access until 2014. Today, approximately 20% of Myanmar is online. What happens when everybody is new to the internet and joining Facebook at once?
Before I started writing this article, I finished reading the work of Marxist feminist and theorist Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (2004). Inspired by Shakespeare´s The Tempest, it is a history of the body in the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Federici shows how the battle against the rebel body and the conflict between body and mind are essential conditions for the development of labor power and self-ownership, two central principles of modern social organization.
The American online social media company Facebook has been a blessing for human rights – most apparently for freedom of speech. Social media can increase the effectiveness of public assemblies, demonstrations or non-mainstream political movements. However, there exist also dark sides to social media.
Facebook, with more than 2.2 billion active users, has had a bad few weeks – or even years. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, the co-founder, and leader of Facebook had to apologize for failing to protect the personal data of millions of users. On the strength of this, millions of users deleted their accounts in disgust.
One of the most prominent scholars of the Internet, Manuel Castells, explains in a speech on @vilaweb that the Internet is a place where the “fearful” of the world should overcome their fear and bond to fight against the power structures. He continues that this overcoming is possible because people lose a sense of solitude. As a consequence, the aggregative and communicative power of Internet can turn into a transformative power (e.g. #blacklivematters). But how can the civil society become stronger vis-à-vis the state? And what online strategies do political regimes use against dissident social movements?