A case for free speech!
How can cute cats have anything to do with free speech? I mean, how can cute animals (cats) bring about social change? And how can you be a “digital activist” through cat videos? This subject could fill an entire book. I’ll try to follow the KISS acronym and keep it simple for both our sake. To develop a context for this blog, first I need to talk about a couple of buzz words: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.
The difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 has to do with the way people interact through the online community. Neither Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 refer to any specific advance in technology, which is why it’s so hard for many people to understand. Web 1.0 in the 90s was quite complicated. The webpages were static and the tools were as complicated as the user needed them to be. Web 2.0, on the other hand, is much simpler because it focuses on all kinds of different users being able to interact, create, and/or contribute to the content.
In many respects Web 1.0 failed to bring about true and meaningful social change on a large scale. That’s because censorship of static websites tends to be easier to block than interactive ones—at least at the state level. Countries like North Korea, Iran, and Turkey have become known for their censorship of all kinds of websites; both Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. I mean, you can’t even use Twitter when you’re in Turkey—WTF! This obviously puts limits on a persons freedom of speech. But back in the days of Web 1.0, if a government blocked a page like hrw.org (human rights watch), they were only limiting that a specific type of user. Today, people notice if they can’t access interactive websites like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.
For most people, being an activist isn’t on their radar. People just want to share pictures and stories of their pets. Do you remember Grumpy Cat? Since 2012 Grumpy cat likes on Facebook has reached 8 million, and she’s generated 1.2 million followers on Instagram. In many respects, this cat is more known than hwr.org. It’s obvious we care about these animals.
You might be willing to blow off these cute, cuddly, and the ridiculous animals, if it weren’t for the fact that this is what brought about Web 2.0. We want to communicate about these things, usually more than we do about human rights. It not that we don’t care about these kinds of issues, it’s that we want to feel connected in a community—and we want to see something really cute at the same time. Web 1.0 evolved into web 2.0 when we began sharing all kinds of content. Websites began changing to fit around the needs of communities. They allowed us to share what we love, what we hate, and what nobody wanted to see.
But these cute animals really do make a difference. If someone were to try to look up grumpy cat and they were blocked, they start asking questions. What is going on? What happened? Why is grumpy cat blocked? Even the simplest, mundane, or unassuming things matter when it comes to our civil liberties. If more and more governments start to limit the freedom of speech, more people are going to start to get upset. Censorship such as this can have serious impacts on a community. It can cause government to fall, bring about social change, and bring people together. So by posting pictures of adorable animals on social media, you are acting like a watchdog (sorry for the pun) over our civil liberties while building a sense of community. It’s this sense of community that is so impowering and can bring about change. Today, in Web 2.0, (moving into Web 3.0) we are changing the world through our sence of togetherness, even if the topic is all about cats.
That is where I should have ended this blog post, but you can’t have a post without some links. There are two suggested videos on YouTube that illustrate how much we care about our pets.