The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedomby Evgeny Morozov
Pub. Date: 01/04/2011
The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran. Yet for all the talk about the liberalizing force of the internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian regimes are effectively using the internet to suppress free speech and democracy. What’s… See more details below
The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran. Yet for all the talk about the liberalizing force of the internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian regimes are effectively using the internet to suppress free speech and democracy. What’s more, the latest research shows that greater access to information pacifies a population as much as it incites it to revolution. If we in the West are to promote liberal ideals, we’ll have to do more than fund Facebook.
In this book, blogger and social commentator Evgeny Morozov tackles these issues with relentless energy and analytical savvy. Marshalling a compelling set of case studies, he shows why we must stop thinking of the internet and social media as instant cures for repression, and how, in some cases, they can even threaten democracy.
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Morozov is debunking the notion that internet access = internet freedom. In fact, he tells us that internet "freedom" is a term with no meaning in the conventional sense since it implies that users are free to say what they like and use the technology for their own ends. But, his argument goes, if one user (an authoritarian regime, say, with a reason to dampen enthusiasm for democratic reforms) controls any points of internet access, or subverts the open sharing of ideas on social networking platforms to their own ends, "freedom" immediately becomes compromised. Morozov compiles an extraordinary collection of examples from around the world of how this is happening now, and challenges (especially U.S.) policy makers to acknowledge that funding bloggers or promoting social networking sites is not an adequate response in and of itself to authoritarian regimes and/or dictatorships. He argues persuasively that U.S. Secretary of State Clinton's speeches on Internet freedom do not adequately address the issues of authoritarian control, and suggests that only by closely aligning stated country-specific political policies with the promotion of Internet access in these same countries will produce the results the U.S. government seeks. In other words, we have to stop talking out of both sides of our face. We can't suppose that financing a corrupt regime on the one hand and supplying financing for anti-regime bloggers on the other is going to produce creditable results. And when it comes to Internet freedoms, one size does not fit in all cases. Some governments have embraced the Internet revolution so thoroughly that they are closely intertwined in the social networking sites, uncovering dissidents and following their adherents. Some have only the crudest knowledge of and reaction to social networking: witness the Internet shutdown for several days during the protests against Egyptian government. At first I thought Morozov was arguing for international regulation of the Internet and perhaps even self-policing by internet services providers. But I realized he is far too realist to imagine that international regulation (were it even possible) would be practically effective and that asking internet service providers to police is even more frightening than the authoritarian regimes he opposes. But his contention that the Internet too often "empowers the strong and disempowers the weak" is probably true. However, adding even fractionally to the access of the disempowered means proportionally huge gains in their knowledge and connectivity with ideas and others sharing their beliefs. As messy and inadequate a poorly-regulated Internet may be, it has undoubtedly had some effect on information dissemination to good effect. It is now up to those shackled masses to bend their minds to the task of building better governance than that which they have had to suffer in the past.
Social studies scholar Evgeny Morozov may occasionally be cranky and stylistically conflicted, but his original arguments provide refreshing insights. He debunks nearly religious beliefs about the intrinsically positive power of the Internet and total information access. Morozov demonstrates how propagating this optimistic view of the web drowns out more subtle positions and keeps governmental and societal attention focused on less meaningful activities. getAbstract recommends this worthy polemic to those engaged in cyberculture, those trying to decipher cultural change, and those dedicated to understanding and promoting freer societies.
The premise on this book is Cynical look at freedom on the Internet world wide.. I am still reading.. but I would not say I agree with the authors views of events