We are approaching the tenth anniversary of one of my favorite projects: Global Voices Online, which I am a proud contributor to. To commemorate this, I have been assigned the task of reflecting on one of the platform’s first blog posts, entitled Operation “Viral Freedom”. Here is my reflection, ten years after this text was published.
After I joined Global Voices, in 2009, I met dozens of writers, journalists and activists from all over the world, including countries that we had grown to associate with images of violence and extremism through mainstream media, and whose voices rarely had an echo. I started following their work, engaging in discussions with them, and making new friends. We all shared a desire for change, a passion for communication and self-expression, and a common ground of values and principles.
Back then, no one could predict what 2011 had in store for all of us; the explosion of hope, citizenship and self-expression that were ahead, and the brutal repression that regimes would unfold against their populations.
However, reading many of the contributions prior to 2011 from a distance makes it clear that something was on the making, that the region was boiling, and that the divide between citizens’ desire for change and their rulers was increasingly insurmountable.
Blog posts like “Viral Operation Freedom”, from 2004, highlight the increasing relevance of the interactions between citizens in the Middle East and North Africa, which turned out to be key in the organization and communication of the 2011 uprisings, and in pushing for civil-society building.
On the other hand, the post hints at the inherent contradictions, dangers and threats posed by private-owned technology and communication platforms, regardless of how well-intentioned they may seem.
Time and experience have made it clear that the attempts to control citizens increasingly involve controlling their digital communications. It has also proven the importance of developing and using free, independent and autonomous online tools and spaces.
Read Operation “Viral Freedom”, and join us in celebrating Global Voices’ tenth anniversary.