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Why Governments Use Broadcast TV and Dissidents Use Twitter

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Broadcast TV vs TwitterIn moments of political and military crisis, people want to control their media and connect with family and friends. And ruling elites respond by investing in broadcast media and censoring and surveilling digital networks.

So the battles between political elites who use broadcast media and the activists who use digital media are raging in other parts of the world, as well.

Last month, Malaysia's opposition won the popular vote through effective digital campaigning. Tech-savvy activists have turned political communication in that country upside down, and the traditional governing party barely got a Parliamentary majority. In newly opening Myanmar, the first really big social movement is simply demanding cheaper mobile phone calling plans. Syria has been locked in civil war, but only in its most desperate moments has the embattled regime dared shut down the country's information infrastructure.

Doing so hobbles their economy, constrains security services, and removes a key means of propagandizing. And because of the intense civil strife,mobile phone subscriptions and internet use is rapidly growing. These days, "going dark" -- geek parlance for the moment an entire country disappears from global digital networks -- is a key indicator of a regime in crisis.

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