Suppressing Activism Both On And Off The Web

The world’s population has ballooned to billions. It means billions of mouth to feed and competing for the planet’s dwindling resources. With so many people around us, it is inevitable for conflict to arise. We may not always agree on the same things and others won’t hesitate in voicing out their opinions. Others may take their sentiments out in the streets especially if it involves socio-political conflicts. And just looking at the global picture of conflict, wars, and terrorism nowadays, it is no longer surprising that activism is very much alive.

Meanwhile, there are other countries where activism is not encouraged. These are struggling, third-world and often war-torn nations that are a picture of political unrest and chaos. And we all know how popular social media is today. It is the new avenue for activists to ensure their various causes are heard on a bigger platform. These activists may be bloggers that whip up colorful and controversial articles and materials that are meant to incite patriotism among the people and encourage them to unite against a common cause.

Human rights defenders, activists, and social media bloggers have been physically attacked, detained, threatened, harassed, and disappeared by armed groups, some of whom are affiliated with the state authorities, in Tripoli and elsewhere in western Libya, Human Rights Watch said today. Despite the killing of an activist and other abuses since 2014, authorities seem unable to rein in the attackers, enabling them to operate with impunity.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 18 human rights defenders, political and civil rights activists, bloggers, and media workers in Tripoli and Zawiyah, in April 2017. Eleven said that since the collapse of central authority and emergence of multiple governments in 2014, militias headed by warlords, and members of armed groups in western Libya, some affiliated with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), had threatened them. Three said they had been physically attacked or ill-treated, and nine said that they feared for their lives after armed groups threatened them. They said many prominent activists had fled the country for neighboring Tunisia and elsewhere.


A big majority of the world’s population use the web almost daily now for various reasons. Social media is a big drawer where millions actually meet virtually and converge to share ideas and bits and pieces of their lives. SNS is now mainly used as well in political propagandas. However, personalities who are considered activists by the state in countries like Libya are now being persecuted and harassed because of what they stand for and the stories they are sharing to the world through their social media accounts.

On June 9, 2017, a Thai man was sentenced to 35 years in jail for sharing Facebook posts. The crime: he allegedly defamed the king.

This harsh sentence is just one example of Thailand’s increasing repression in the digital sphere. Since the 2014 coup, the Thai military junta has take a hard stance toward online critics and dissidence.

In May, authorities threatened to shut down Facebook if the company failed to remove content deemed “inappropriate”. Facebook, which did not comply, has not been shut down. At least, not yet.

Cyber repression in Thailand

Thailand’s cyber repression seems to be linked to its troubled history of military coups.

At the advent of the 2006 military coup, the Computer Crime Act was passed, authorising state agencies to block internet content deemed a threat to national security. It encouraged “netizens” (web users, many of them young) to monitor and report transgressive internet behaviours.

This early effort emerged from alarm about the fact that the country’s two main factions, the red shirts and the yellow shirts, had taken their fight to cyberspace, with the red shirts vocally opposing the coup and questioning the country’s monarchy.


But at this day and age, not all rallies are held on the streets. Most of them are done virtually. It is easier to reach a wider audience using the Internet. Through social media, you can target the right people to hear your stories and news. And as such, people with a huge clout but has ideas and actions that oppose the state may be silenced especially that their followers can easily read what they have in mind and can be a threat to the government. It’s been going on for centuries and still very much real today, so no longer be surprised to hear stories about activists being silenced because it has been happening for centuries and won’t likely stop anytime soon.

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