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The Internet has accelerated the effects of investigative reporting. In the 1980s, it took years for a Washington Post exposé of corruption under dictator Ferdinand Marcos to help create a mass uprising. Today, a “netizen” in China or Russia with dirt on corrupt officials can ignite a public protest in hours.
Leaders in China and Iran appear the most worried about the Internet. Iran is trying to create an “intranet” separate from the Web while China keeps reinforcing its “great firewall” between the Web and its citizens. The latest example is an order in December that requires more than 500 million users in China to register their real name to even gain access to the Internet.
Many Chinese woke up to the power of the Internet as a check on government after a 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province that killed thousands of schoolchildren. When officials tried to suppress parents protesting shoddy construction of schoolhouses, it helped inspire greater Internet activism.
Whatever the means – journalism or the Internet – the hard fact is that people are drawn to the truth and want to be governed by it. Poet Robert Frost said it best:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun...
Yes, 2012 was a low year for truth-tellers. But exposing even that fact alone could help make 2013 the turnaround year to spill sunlight on the boulders of official censorship.