Web & Totalitarism
How the Internet strengthens dictatorships. How dictators watch us on the web. The internet is meant to help activists, enable democratic protest and weaken the grip of authoritarian regimes.
But it doesn’t—in fact, the web is a boon for bullies Read more in this debate: media guru, Clay Shirky, responds to Morozov’s criticisms and defends the web as a positive force for democracy. Morozov replies to Shirky here. Hear more: Evgeny Morozov speaks at Demos on the subject: “Is the internet really changing politics?” And So what? Prospect Magazine‘s latest issue figures an excellent piece by my witty colleague Evgeny Morozov.
Entitled “Why Dictators Love the Web,” the article is as an important contribution to the study of digital activism. As many in this field know, Evgeny is one of the lone analog voices countering the digital “Internet = Democracy” hype that pervades the mainstream media and much of digital activism. To this end, Evgeny’s latest tour de force is also invaluable for my dissertation research, in which I study the role of new media and technology in popular resistance against authoritarian regimes. Response to the response. Evgeny replied in style to my way-too-long response to his piece in Prospect on: “Why Dictators Love the Web.”
At least someone read my entire post, thanks Evgeny! As I wrote in my first response, the great thing about Evgeny is that “he’ll test your logic and poke (nay, drill) as many trenches as he can into your argument.” So if you want to see this in action, do read his concise reply. First things first, though: his piece is accessible by subscription only. Twitter and Iran: First Get the Data, Then Talk. I just attended a panel at Harvard University on “The Impact of Social Media in the Middle East” which is part of a 3-day conference on the Middle East and North Africa.
My colleagues Rob Faris from the Berkman Center and Evgeny Morozov now at Georgetown were both on the panel in addition to Iranian-American activist Lily Mazahery and Kuwaiti blogger Ziad Al-Duaij. The panelists engaged in rapid-fire debate on the role of Twitter in Iran after their presentations. The typical laundry list of anecdotes were thrown around to win the hearts and minds of the audience. The summary: Yes, Twitter had a significant impact; No Twitter had no significant impact. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t eaten all day, but I found this all quite annoying. Why the Internet Is a Great Tool for Totalitarians. Photo: Brock Davis The Internet advances the cause of freedom more effectively than ballistic missiles and Hellfire-equipped drones; at least that’s the conventional wisdom among US diplomats and policymakers.
“Information freedom supports the peace and security that provide a foundation for global progress” is how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in a speech last January, her first on democracy and the Internet. George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda” is out; the Twitter agenda is in.