It’s a perplexing time to see the fabulous drama of the Olympic Games in Beijing while at the same time the ugly face of war in Georgia. But somewhat under the radar on both of these front page news items is the impact of the Internet.
Why anyone was surprised to learn that the Chinese government would limit Internet access during the Games is a great mystery. Everyone recognizes that China is a totalitarian government, and restricts many rights of its citizens including Internet access. Obviously when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selected China for the 2008 Games neither the IOC nor anyone expected the Chinese to change its form of government just because it was hosting the Games. So why journalists were outraged by limits to certain websites seems strange. If the Chinese citizens were precluded from websites why should athletic journalist visiting China have special privileges that the Chinese citizens do not enjoy? Ultimately the IOC did admit they expected these Internet restrictions.
The ugly face of armed conflict in Georgia during the Olympic games was made more complicated by reports that hackers affiliated with the Russian Business Network hijacked websites of the Georgian government and websites. Clearly the ability to provide news to citizens embroiled in war zones is critical, and so these hacker attacks are not novel but rather a reminder that democracy and freedom extend a long-way into our social expectations of availability of information that we receive from the Internet.