June 21st, 2010 | Published in Google Public Policy
A year ago today, Neda Soltan was shot on the streets of Tehran amid protests over the disputed results of the Iranian elections. Officials locked foreign journalists out of the country and stalled all modes of communication, but an individual caught the final moments before her death on video. That video was posted to YouTube, and captured the hearts and minds of millions around the world.
Little is known about Neda’s life, but as I read more about her, I noticed one thing in particular: Neda was a singer in a country where women are not allowed to sing in public.
Music, Neda’s passion in life, is a universal language that has the ability to inspire feelings of patriotism or dissent, fuel political and social movements, educate and influence entire populations, and serve as a connecting force for people around the world. The open Internet, which memorialized Neda’s life, has the same inherent capabilities. It’s no coincidence that repressive regimes that silence minority voices do so by restricting the platforms that can elevate them most; the top eight countries that violate the freedom of musical expression also censor heavily online.
As with all mediums, languages, and innovations that transcend borders, the Internet and music will and can be used for both good and bad purposes. And neither will ever be a silver bullet for the world’s problems. But both are able to carry and amplify messages that would otherwise be lost, empowering individuals to speak, and serving as incomparable platforms for engagement, expression.