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The Internet's Impact on Activism: The Case of Burma

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Abstract:

The case of Burma raises intriguing questions about the effect of modern computer communications on nonviolent grass-roots movements and on the balance of power between citizens and elected officials, and between local, national, and international power structures. Geographically dispersed, but knitted by the Internet, the pro-democracy movement concerned with Burma (a small, and to many, obscure Southeast Asian nation), was able to raise Constitutional and national policy questions in the United States, when state government passed foreign policy legislation without consulting Washington. This decision violated international trade agreements between the U.S. federal government and foreign entities. Then, in April 1997, President Clinton signed federal legislation banning any new investment by U.S. companies in Burma. . . . These legislative decisions were made due to a grass-roots campaign run to a considerable degree on the Internet, and despite the presence of only a negligible Burmese constituency in the United States. . . . This article shows how the Internet has aided the cause of activists of various cultures in ways that would not have been possible in the era before the Internet's networking capabilities became cheaply and globally available.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/105761099265766

Publication date: July 1, 1999

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