THE ELECTRONIC IRON CURTAIN AND VIRTUAL DEMOCRACY:
LESSONS FOR UZBEKISTAN
Farkhad Tolipov, Ph.D. (Political Science), Independent Political Scientist (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)
If you shut the door to all errors,
truth will be shut out.
At the beginning of July 2012, the media and Internet reported that a documentary film shown on Uzbekistan’s Eshlar TV channel had compared social networks (in particular Facebook and Odnoklassniki) to machineguns and nuclear bombs. Social networks were also likened to weapons in the hands of the enemy.
During the program, an expert from the Spirituality and Enlightenment Center asked the following question: “What is the difference between a terrorist and a blogger’s page on a social network showing photographs of naked people?” He also noted that “if terrorists kill people using weapons and bombs, Internet users are ultimately being killed with the aid of ‘sweet words;’ this kind of mass culture poses a direct danger to our state policy and our sovereignty.”
Another expert accused Facebook and Odnoklassniki of propagandizing sexual perversion and “the extravagances of Western democracy.”
The film called on young people to use local analogues of these websites instead—Muloqot.uz and Sinfdosh.uz.
Despite all the seriousness of such accusations, it should, however, be kept in mind that the number of users of social networks is steadily rising and already totals hundreds of thousands.
The reviews of some experts about social networks unwittingly makes us think of the recent past when, with the aid of the Iron Curtain, the state tried to shield people, primarily the youth, from the “pernicious influence of the West;” today many feel that this influence is reflected in advance of democracy in non-democratic countries.
All of this has prompted me to discourse upon what the social networks have added to our lives and to what extent they could be a threat to the country’s national security.
There are already as many as nine million Internet users in Uzbekistan (around 200,000 people are registered on Facebook); this figure comprises more than half of the residents of Kazakhstan and almost equals the population of Tajikistan and………..