There is globalization of information and media. When a celebrity having sex, a dog riding a skateboard, an Islamic State beheading, or a Taiwanese animated cartoon of the latest scandal goes on the Internet, everyone watches. ‘Primitive’ people in traditional villages use cell phones to make international calls to their overseas relatives. Email to Russia takes a few minutes, regular mail can take a few months. Silicon Valley software engineers email their work to India for continued work while they sleep and take up the next day where India has left off. Spotify and Netflix personalize your global media consumption based on your preferences. Satellite radio includes foreign programming in its 100+ channels. Global YouTube stars like the Kardashians parlay their fame into serious money and careers. (The company that Kylie spun off in 2016 is now worth a billion dollars.) Pharrell Williams’ Happy inspired dozens of YouTube videos from all over the world. (However, the people who did the video in Iran were thrown in jail.) Since 2016, the Chinese video app Tik Tok has taken the U.S. by storm.
Although U.S. media still dominate the world, with American movies and TV shows dubbed into many languages, Al Jazeera and other Arab satellite networks dominate news in the Middle East, Japanese, Korean and Iranian films win international prizes, and TV dramas from South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Egypt are shown all over the world. Bollywood in India and Nollywood in Nigeria churn out hundreds of films a year. When a South Korean TV heart throb appeared at the Honolulu International Film Festival for his movie debut, your author was almost trampled by female fans of all ages.
At its peak, ISIS had a highly professional media production center that could produce a new internet video in 24 hours, and pumped out over 30 flashy new videos per DAY that put Al Qaeda’s boring lectures to shame. Local rappers around the world post their videos online to boost their profiles. Tens of thousands of commentators post blogs and podcasts. Al Jazeera and CNN documented and boosted the Arab Spring revolutions that started in 2010 in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, while Facebook and Twitter helped organize them. The 2011 London Riots were coordinated via Blackberry, which is still popular in Europe. In Chicago, gangs taunt each other and arrange confrontations via Twitter and Instagram. Donald Trump built his campaign and presidency with constant messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to his millions of followers.
There is a considerable Digital Divide. Most of the information generation and consumption occurs in the Global North, the Newly Industrialized Countries (China and India each have more internet users than any Western country) and among the young and well-off in the Global South. However, there are now six billion cell phones in the world, and many people use them as their primary access to the Internet. In fact, to many people Facebook or WhatsApp on their phones IS the Internet.
In Kenya and some other African countries, people make up for the lack of banking systems and credit cards for the poor by using the Mpesa app on their smart phones to pay bills, shop in stores and take taxis, thereby leapfrogging over banks, checks and credit cards. Bangla Desh uses a similar system. Internet sales on Jumia, ‘the African Amazon,’ jumped 58% in one quarter in 2019. Overseas workers all over the world use their cell phones to transfer money home much more cheaply than Western Union or other services.
On the dark side, there has been a flood of fake election news and political, ethnic and religious trolling in dozens of countries, with Facebook and WhatsApp campaigns inspiring riots, lynchings and genocide in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Myanmar. In addition, at least 70 governments use Israeli, Italian, Chinese and U.S. software and equipment for surveillance, facial recognition and targeting dissidents, and hire trolls to support the government and attack critics. In the Philippines, it is considered mandatory to employ a troll farm for your election campaign. The elections of Duterte in the Philippines, Modi in India and Bolsonaro in Brazil were preceded by a online flood of fake news supporting the candidates and trashing their opponents.