Internet: A threat to government or the other way around?

The answer is, maybe both. The Internet has plunged government institutions into a very steep learning curve, creating new frontiers that many bureaucrats believe help how they run the country.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor

Could the Internet pose a threat to government as an institution and create significant problems that shape how governing in the future occurs around the globe?  Or are government a danger to users of the Internet -- and vice versa?

The answer is maybe both.  The internet has plunged government institutions into a very steep learning curve; creating new frontiers that many bureaucrats believe help how they run the country. For many departments, it's been a windfall in financial savings such as publishing news, services, and many other programs. But for the actual governors of a country, it's become quicksand or worse: the death knell for an elected official. The power brokers have found that making deals that used to be done in secret are now just about impossible to do. Getting a deal done, negotiating give and take on a bill is now leaked before the ink has even dried, because a draft is already out on the internet on some blog or news forum - like this one.  Senators, Congressmen/women, parliamentarians around the world no longer worry about one single person; suddenly, anyone around them can be the next Deep Throat tell-all informer, straight from their BlackBerry to Twitter, and their career could be over.

It could be argued that the internet is the great equalizer to government and its institutions, preventing them from becoming too powerful. For other agencies, it's an entirely new battlefront - one which they now must confront - and use.

  • The Internet is the great creator and destroyer of current and next generation politicians.
  • A journalist does his homework and steadfastly enshrines ethical methods.

These two statements are about to collide in a head-on crash of extraordinary proportions. When U.S. President Nixon resigned from office, it wasn't a news story covering a week in the life of a President's downfall. It started in June of 1971 and finally ended when he left office in August of 1974. Newspaper reporters had to maintain constant pressure on information leaking out of the White House and Defense Department for three years.  Watergate was covered by some of the most respected journalists in the world and ensured that the facts pertaining to the story followed strict guidelines before publication. Those standards were what ultimately brought down a President.

Standards 2009... I don't have time for that!

Today, a single story with enough information that is both accurate AND false can wipe out a politician in the amount of time it takes to log into a BlackBerry, type out 140 characters onto Twitter.com and you're done like tweet....

The amount of retractions and corrections that news organizations have published has skyrocketed over the past several years. I myself have had to correct a story's accuracy of facts. The speed of the internet has also created a conundrum that existed already in newspapers: Deadlines, which have now accelerated from several hours to 'hit the press' to seconds to get it online before the person across the street on his cell phone blogs it. Competition isn't what it used to be. A single event can have devastating effects that spread and collects unwitting victims that are also elected, thus ending that official's colleague career.

Go to: Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 in this series

Editorial standards