ABC's Nightly News, and the New York Times online, report that one of the principal methods used by anti-government protesters in countries across (primarily Northern) Africa are "social networking sites" -- i.e., the ubiquitous Facebook.
I suggest you pay attention to what has been happening recently in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries at the edges of the Islamic world. These are nations with secular, generally corrupt, family-owned franchise governments, with whom the United States and Europe have fair to good relations. And there are rising anti-government movements and large demonstrations occurring, right now, in all these countries (most visibly, Tunisia and Yemen).
And, using a speed-of-the-Net, real-time communications tool to organize can create a positive feedback loop between popular uprisings in multiple countries -- Hey! They've taken the government buildings in Otheristan! Everybody get into the streets! Converge on the government TV station!
Their populations are desperately poor, and unemployment is the rule. They're breeding grounds for Islamist extremist organizations that are part of another franchise -- Al-Qaeda.
Here's my random bark: One way of quelling a popular uprising that uses Facebook would be to restrict use of the site, with or without Facebook's cooperation: Think of the restrictions of Google in China as an example.
However -- remember, one of the first things Lil' Boots did after being appointed President in January, 2001, was to begin a massive data-mining operation of internet and phone communications, ultimately used by the U.S. Intelligence community.
(In fact, discussions to initiate this program between Bush's 'transition team' and major American telecommunications providers had begun in December of 2000, before Bush v. Gore had even been adjudicated.)
The program has never stopped. Our current President believes it should continue, unabated and unmentioned, despite the precedent it sets, and any violations of the Constitution which may occur, in the name of National Security.
From the perspective of an NSA intelligence analyst, if you have access to everything about Facebook accounts; if you can see IP address and other information of 'Friends' posting to any account; then you want Facebook, and its data feed from the Arab world, to continue flowing freely for your use.
Meanwhile, protesters can still use the site, and events have a way of happening more quickly than intelligence analysis can affect them.
There's a war going on in cyberspace, involving the U.S., China, Russia; European nations; Al-Qaeda and Hamas and others; Israel; Iran. It bears some resemblance to the Ultra and Magic intercepts, the Funkspiele between the Allies and the Germans, of the Second World War -- but to play you need to be able to see communications to decrypt and analyze them.
Riding the Tiger is a two-edged sword.
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