Internet censorship works.
Undoubtedly, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has successfully tamed the internet to stay in power with its infamous Great Firewall (GFW). Following suit, Russia has been attempting to build a similar internet bubble amid their war with Ukraine to maintain Putin’s grip on power from threats and dissents.
With the recent decisions to shut down Rappler and attempts to block websites allegedly linked to “communist-terrorists,” it is not far-fetched to think that the Philippine government will have a more sophisticated way of censoring the internet within the term of Marcos Jr. People must realize that these actions are not only an apparent attack on journalism but will also serve as litmus tests of our general sentiment on censorship.
In this digital era, like how a dictatorship needs reliable military power to work, having complete control over the digital space means having the ability to control the way people think and behave. The uninformed might think that control equates to complete suppression. However, history clearly shows that complete suppression eventually leads to people heading to the streets, giving power back to the masses.
For it to be effective, censorship should be subtle in the eyes of the ignorant but effective enough to maintain control. By cloning and blocking global social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the CCP has created the illusion of freedom within China while being able to filter out things that they deem objectionable.
Considering the current internet infrastructure in the Philippines, do we have the technology, financial capability, or qualified workers to emulate the GFW? Most people would say no, and I would agree. Based on a 2022 survey by the multinational IT firm Cisco, 91% of Filipino workers believe that the current state of internet infrastructure does not meet the demands of the citizens. Make no mistake; the Philippine government can still build its own “GFW” without the need for advanced technology.
We have already seen glimpses of Marcos Jr.’s control with the power of social media during the 2022 National Elections. Combined with the Filipinos missing quality education opportunities and increased poverty rate due to the pandemic, among other things, somehow, the United Vloggers and Influencers of the Philippines (UVIP) is formed, and vloggers potentially being the mainstream news media is becoming a reality.
Similar to how the CCP maintained control, I daresay this is the government’s attempt to clone the idea of journalism amidst their oppression of those who took an oath to the Journalist’s Creed.
I will continuously remind people until the day I am unable to—technology is just a tool. The “Great Firewall” is not the technology itself; rather, the ideology behind the technology that denies individual freedom and allows the powerful few to control most, if not all, aspects of their constituents’ lives.
Most strategies of censorship have been similar in pattern, digital or not. Different oppressors use different methods and tools, may it be legislative actions or technology implementation. The dangerous characteristic of these methods is their intrinsic capability to stay hidden from those who are ignorant and those who feel educated enough to have illusory confidence in their beliefs.
It will be a difficult challenge; however, we must not blame the masses for their false perceptions. This idea is only an outcome of the actions or inactions made by those in power, decades in the making. We can only reflect on our actions, fight against the regime by any means, take it to the streets if we must, and be watchdogs as journalists should.
Let us resist from the very beginning. Otherwise, we might end up losing our freedom without even realizing it.