Generally referred to as the network of networks, the Internet is a web of information and a medium of communication that has captivated reporters and scholars whose working communities it expands. The Internet along with other technologies has opened channels of communication, choice, and indubitably enabled the public’s greater participation in this expanding era of globalization. Not only has the Internet played a great role in forming international public opinions regarding the United States throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Western Europe, but it has also helped to “democratize” the rest of the world by allowing them to voice their own opinions.

From the year 2000 to 2004, Internet usage has grown by more than 200 percent in the Middle East, a region where almost every government censors or punishes speech critical of the authorities or the regime. Through e-mail and Web sites, human rights organizations throughout the Middle East have been able to distribute information far more effectively than ever before, despite modest resources and limited access to local media. French, English, and Arabic newspapers that are often censored in such countries as Palestine and Egypt have posted banned stories online, where local and international readers can view them. Stories that newspapers refuse or are prohibited to publish due to political pressure or other factors have also circulated widely on the Internet. There is even an Arab Gay and Lesbian Web site that provides information to people in the Middle East that would otherwise have no access to such information pertaining to their sexual preferences. Israelis and Arabs often participate in lively debates on chat rooms and via e-mail at a time when it is tremendously difficult for them to have such contact face-to-face.

The Internet has given the chance to most Middle Eastern countries to explore and sometimes practice the same customs taken for granted in the United States and the ability to receive a broader range of information provides them with an increased sense of independence. Therefore it is only natural that the Arab world would want to have their own news sites to share with the rest of the world. The El Jazeerah Web site gives Middle Easterners the chance to tell their side of the story when it comes to such issues as the war in Iraq and the never ending struggle between Palestinians and Israelis. That is the fundamental strength of the Internet – the ability for people at different extremities of the world to share almost anything instantaneously.

In China, the spread of information via the Internet is growing so rapidly that the government is no longer able to control it. In fact, young Chinese entrepreneurs who have studied in the United States bring back with them the latest U.S. business models and set up Internet companies financed by overseas venture capital firms. The Internet thus threatens traditional forms of information, such as state-controlled media, in China. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that 67.5 percent of Chinese Internet users believe the Internet allows for more criticism of government than traditional forums. Users are able to access banned sites like CNN through the help of Western companies such as Safeweb that provide Internet hosting invisible to government-mandated blocks. The competition from Internet newspapers, which are economical to produce and practically untraceable, has managed to rejuvenate the independent paper press as well.

Even though most of Western Europe has embraced the global entrepreneurship brought on by the Internet, the French have seen this technological revolution as another loss in the old cultural rivalry that exists between both countries pertaining to the fact that both nations seek to represent some universal model. The French seem to view this new Internet-driven market as an infiltration of American culture into that which is French. There is a persistent feeling amongst the French that not only jobs but also power, wealth, ideas and national identity itself are migrating away permanently and at a fast pace.

The Internet has revolutionized communication and connected the United States and the outside world like never before. It has given the whole world a practical source of two-way communication and the capability for everyone to hear both sides of the story. Even though the Internet does not seem to have helped international public opinion about the United States, it has offered something even more important – global freedom of speech.