When the population uses web apps to share cute cats, those web apps gain political capitol and become more difficult to shut down.
The quote, which is the title of this post, comes from a 2008 talk Zuckerman gave at the O'Reilly Etech conference. Zuckerman points out that the widespread usage of certain internet applications for activities like sharing cute cat photos makes it harder for governments to shut down said applications when they're used for activist activities. Says Zuckerman:
With web 2.0, we’ve embraced the idea that people are going to share pictures of their cats, and now we build sophisticated tools to make that easier to do. As a result, we’re creating a wealth of tech that’s extremely helpful for activists. There are twin revolutions going on – the ease of creating content and the ease of sharing it with local and global audiences.
Shirkey reiterates the point in his interview: social media platforms and environments that are designed to allow citizens to share anything they like are better environments for political activism than tools that are specifically designed for political activism.
Zuckerman also puts forth a formula that describes the effectiveness of social media platforms: if a platform isn't being used for porn, it doesn't work, and if it isn't being used for activism, it doesn't work well.
Porn is a weak test for the success of participatory media – it’s like tapping a mike and asking, “Is it on?” If you’re not getting porn in your system, it doesn’t work. Activism is a stronger test – if activists are using your tools, it’s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable.
The whole article is worth a read.