Authoritarian Governments in Cyberspace

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talk by Evgeny Morozov at Stanford University in October 2009

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Authoritarian Governments in Cyberspace

  1. 1. Authoritarian Governments in Cyberspace Evgeny Morozov Oct 08/2009
  2. 2. US Presidents ♥ the Internets "The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip" Ronald Reagan, 1989 Photo: National Archives “Trying to control the Internet is like trying to nail Jell-o to the wall” Bill Clinton, 2000 Photo: White House “Imagine if the Internet took hold in China. Imagine how freedom would spread" Photo: White House John Lennon George Bush, 1999
  3. 3. Main tenets of cyber-utopianism... 1. The growth in highly mobile/decentralized Internet communities will result in the decline of the authoritarian (nation) state 2. Better access to information/technology makes people more likely to dissent/revolt 3. New information networks make it easier to raise global awareness/avoid genocides→ new pressures on these regimes 4. Internet has empowered dissidents & activists, making them more effective/louder than before 5. Internet has created new ways of conducting “public diplomacy” - smart power – allowing ordinary citizens to partake & influence foreign policy
  4. 4. Main tenets of cyber-utopianism... 1. The growth of highly mobile/decentralized Internet communities will result in the decline of the authoritarian (nation) state 2. Better access to information/technology makes people more likely to dissent/revolt 3. New information networks make it easier to raise global awareness/avoid genocides→ new pressures on these regimes 4. Internet has empowered dissidents & activists, making them more effective/louder than before 5. Internet has created new ways of conducting “public diplomacy” - smart power – allowing ordinary citizens to partake & influence foreign policy
  5. 5. Will the growth of highly mobile/decentralized communities really result in the decline of the authoritarian state?
  6. 6. Does technology erode state power? “The role of the nation state will change dramatically and there will be no more room for nationalism than there is for smallpox...” Being Digital (1996), Nicolas Negroponte
  7. 7. Information Revolution Marches On? Photo by oceandesetoiles/Flickr CC
  8. 8. Welcome to Cyber-Utopia! Connectivity X Devices = Democracy Photo: Gadl/Flickr CC Photo: Jeremy Visser/Flickr CC
  9. 9. “Blogs are the new faxes” Photo: Marcin Wichary/Flickr CC
  10. 10. Authoritarian regimes USE the Web to... 1. Spread propaganda/advance their own agenda (“spinternet”) 2. Generate useful info & add legitimacy (“authoritarian deliberation”) 3. Monitor/identify dissent early on (“gulag 2.0”)
  11. 11. I. The Rise of the “Spinternet”
  12. 12. Is message control via Digg and Wikipedia more difficult/less effective than via Pravda?
  13. 13. Who sets the agenda in social media? Wikipedia: 1% of users responsible for half of the site's edits Digg: top 100 users responsible for half of the site's top stories 98% chance your submission won't make the Digg frontpage today
  14. 14. Subvert and Profit
  15. 15. Gameabiliy and astroturfing
  16. 16. Facebook friends at 20 cents/friend
  17. 17. Aggressive Search Engine Optimization
  18. 18. Also: the UK
  19. 19. “Knowledge transfer”
  20. 20. China's 50 Cent Party (wumaodang) ~280,000 members Regular National/Local Trainings “Priority” Sites Required to Cooperate
  21. 21. Russia: “New Media Stars” start-up
  22. 22. “Researching the basic ways of promoting state interests with the help of specialized social networks”
  23. 23. Kremlin: generou$ propaganda • In 2010 Russia will spend more on propaganda than on fighting unemployment • Budgets of online-only state media up by 75% despite the crisis • Huge increase in international outreach
  24. 24. Iran: Spinning Religious Discourse “Bureau for the Development of Religious Web Logs” established at the Religious School of Qom in 2006 350 teachers and clergy in Qom were trained, with at least 800 students Particular concern: blogging women
  25. 25. Iranian blogosphere: 2008
  26. 26. Iranian blogosphere: 2009
  27. 27. Iranian efforts pay off
  28. 28. Nigeria's “Anti-Blogging” Project
  29. 29. Who'll lead Egypt's Facebook revolution?
  30. 30. Spinning vs Censoring Photo by Mr.Enjoy/Flickr CC
  31. 31. Streisand effect to blame
  32. 32. II. “Authoritarian Deliberation” Photo by dunechaser/Flickr CC
  33. 33. Russia: Bloggers' Chamber “Instead [of becoming a base for the civil society], RuNet has become home to various antisocial and criminal elements...these people must feel the hand of the government Internet censorship. Censorship efforts should be very selective, very responsible, and very careful. And they should follow the deliberations of the national consultative body that would be comprised of the leading Internet personalities and bloggers. This new consultative body should develop a set of rules guiding "tolerant online behavior" that would help to extirpate all virtual confrontation” Sergey Mironov, Sept 30/2009
  34. 34. “We pay great attention to suggestions and advice from our netizens. The web is an important channel for us to understand the concerns of the public and assemble the wisdom of the public”. Hu Jintao, 2008
  35. 35. Often more critical than official media Ashley Esarey, based on 2006 data/500 blogs
  36. 36. China: “Elude the Cat”
  37. 37. Uses of “authoritarian deliberation” 1. Generate information useful to government: wikis 2. Share the blame for failed policies with the public: spin 3. Increase legitimacy (both at home and abroad): scale
  38. 38. Authoritarian Deliberation in China “CCP gains the ability to legitimate policies by reference to a relatively inclusive deliberation process rather than to an official ideology... This increases the political capacities of the CCP while furthering the careers of party officials” He Baogang and Mark Warren, ““The Deliberative Turn in Chinese Political Development””
  39. 39. Kremlin's new project: Liberty.ru
  40. 40. Pavlovsky on Liberty.ru “Liberty.ru will help political parties tap into collective wisdom, see what people are really concerned about; the parties would even be able to borrow some major policy points from these online discussions” Gleb Pavlovsky, 2009
  41. 41. Thailand: Crowdsourcing Censorship
  42. 42. Saudi Arabia's “flagging” campaign
  43. 43. III. Monitoring & Identifying Dissent Early On
  44. 44. China: TRS Technologies “Currently [the police force] still does surveillance via keyword searches on search engines, with every officer being given a certainthe 200-people-strongto Marketing manager of number of keywords TRS Technologies cover...We equipped eight police stations in Shanghai with our data-mining equipment...Now the work of 10 internet cops can be done by just one” • Marketing Manager, TRS Technologies (200+ staff)
  45. 45. Thank you! Blog: neteffect.foreignpolicy.com Twitter: evgenymorozov

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