Sometimes, one single word can change an opinion, one sentence can modify a point of view, but just one blog or blogger can transform a whole country. This is what happened during the Arab Spring in 2011, when journalists in the Middle East were forced to reinvent themselves to provide truthful news coverage to citizens.
Nerea Rial, New Europe 06.12.2012 However, such power can be banned in a matter of seconds if governments consider this kind of information harmful for their interests. But even after detentions, murders or censorship, bloggers continue to fight for a better world and for the right of freedom of expression, stated four of them at the European Parliament on 5 December, at the conference Bloggers for Democracy. During the revolution in Egypt, social networks encouraged average citizens to protest and take the streets. Several people considered it a Facebook or Twitter revolution, but it wasn't, because at the end people were sacrificing their lives, and not their social accounts, explained Sarrah Abdelrahman, a 24-year-old Egyptian blogger. Online technologies opened the way towards democracy in the country, but without the help from several European activist groups it wouldn't have been possible. Telecomix, a decentralized cluster of net activists, facilitated information to use landlines circumventing state blockages of broadband networks in Egypt. Besides, they diverted all connections to the Syrian web, and redirected netizens to a page with instructions to bypass censorship. Nevertheless, not all organizations have good intentions. “Main operators are interested in making money by creating an equal Internet”, said Martin Löwdin, Swedish activist and Telecomix member, “this undermines the fundamental idea and principles of the net.” Bloggers objective is not only to defeat dictatorships; they also want to defend the right of freedom of expression, something that has disappeared in countries considered as democratic governments. For instance, Azerbaijan is working hard to present itself as a modern and democratic country, but recent actions against bloggers or journalists are showing a different picture. “We have bloggers because we don´t have free media”, explained Arzu Geybullayeva, creator of one of the most critical blogs in the region, and added that online activists are considered “crazy people.” Social sites like Facebook are important in these countries because are the best way to join all citizens together with a common cause. Thank you to these sites “in 2011 was the first time that people in Azerbaijan did something”, Geybullayeva stated, making reference to anti-government demonstrations lead by young activists. The situation in Russia and China is not much better. On 2 November, Vladimir Putinapproved a law which allows the government to ban websites containing what it considers harmful material for Russian citizens. The rule, defined as a new step for censorship, can be only combated with social networks and blogs. According to the Russian blogger Oleg Kashin, Internet is the enabler for more inclusive democracy and revolution in the country. Moreover, he explained that these actions show that authorities are terrified of online criticism and its power. Meanwhile, China is famous for its strong online rules, but this doesn't mean that the country wants their citizens to be disconnected. They use Chinese versions of Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, such as Weibo, to keep the people happy and satisfied, explained Michael Anti, blogger and journalist in China. However, these networks are also controlled by a centralized server and by the guideline "Methods for Governance of Internet Information Services." Therefore, what can the EU do to change this situation in those countries? Within the many actions that are taking place in different Member, in November the MEP Marietje Schaake presented a report on a Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy. The document defends the importance of an open Internet, which along with mobile phones and ICTs “have impacted on human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Regarding to the Data Protection Regulation, Linus Nordberg, member of the Tor Project, affirmed that some aspects of the proposed legislation should be reviewed. For instance, the definition of “privacy by design” included in the Right to be Forgotten is more privacy by policy, because users have to ask the regulator. Privacy by design should be based on engineering, he explained. Because the number of technologies trying to violate individuals' rights is increasing, EU institutions, bloggers and citizens must “continue challenging” these authorities, concluded Schaake.