Monday, March 22, 2010

The Echo Chamber

All it takes is one comment. There have been untold reports over the last week about how Chavez plans to "regulate" the internet, most articles mention twitter and facebook as the the eventual targets. It all stemmed from a comment Chavez made, saying "the Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done. Every country has to apply its own rules and norms." Venezuelanalysis took a look at a sampling of headlines:

As a result, on Saturday Reuters headlined with “Venezuela’s Chavez calls for internet controls” while Associated Press headlined with “Venezuela’s Chavez: Internet should be regulated” and said that Chavez had called for internet regulation and demanded that authorities “crack down on a critical news Web site that he accused of spreading false information”.

The BBC reported that, “the possibility that Venezuela will introduce internet regulations seems to be closer than ever.” and most mainstream media used the issue to refer again to the supposed “repression” by the Venezuelan government when it refused to re-new the license of pro 2002 coup TV channel, RCTV.

Other Venezuelan and Spanish news headlines included, “Chavez: the Internet mustn’t be uncontrolled”, “Chavez on the verge of censuring the internet”, “...attacks freedom of expression”, “Attorney general asks that internet be regulated”.

Go figure that leading New York Times hack Simon Romero introduced his article on Saturday about the popular Venezuela site El Chigüire Bipolar with, "This may be a perilous time to operate a Web site focused on politics here, given President Hugo Chávez’s recent push for new controls of Internet content." But then again, Romero is almost always late to the game. It even prompted press groups, like Reporters Without Borders to issue strong condemnations of the move.

But what the fuck? Do reporters read the news? Do they do any research of their own? Or is it all just an echo chamber?

A week ago, a leader of the PSUV clarified things a bit, or at least you might think he did, saying:

“Chavez didn’t demand that the internet be regulated, rather the president said that there are laws and that it’s necessary to act in accordance with the law.”

On the same day, Manuel Villalba, the head of the science and technology commission in the National Assembly responded to the accusations that Facebook and Twitter were on the verge of being shutdown, saying:

"That is made up. They are looking to generate opinion. This has never been planned. It's not true."

Seems pretty clear, unless you happen to be a reporter. To be fair, yesterday, AP reported that, "Venezuela's Chavez denies plans to control Internet, backtracks on talk about regulations." So all it takes is one comment, taken out of context, and there is your media coverage of Venezuela for the week. And my guess is that most people read the first round of articles, chalked it up to ol' dictator Chavez and then tuned out. Safe to say in the eyes of many, it is now fact that Chavez is planning on regulating the internet.

And on a somewhat different note, Chavez is starting his own blog! You can put me on the list of bloggers anxiously awaiting the first post....

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