The Role of the Internet in Burma’s Saffron Revolution
September 28, 2008
The 2007 Saffron Revolution in Burma was in many ways an unprecedented event in the intersection between politics and technology. There is, of course, the obvious: the event marks a rare instance in which a government leveraged control of nationalized ISPs to entirely black out Internet access to prevent images and information about the protests from reaching the outside world. At another level, it is an example of an Internet driven protest which did not lead to tangible political change. On deeper reflection it is also of interest because of the complex interaction between eyewitnesses within the country and a networked public sphere of bloggers, student activists, and governments around the globe. To that end, this case study examines the root causes, progress, and outcomes of the Saffron Revolution and attempts to parse out the extent to which technology may have played a useful or detrimental role in the unfolding of events. The case concludes with some initial hypotheses about the long-term impact of the protests and the role of the Internet in highly authoritarian states.