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The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom

Events | Headline and Cultural Forums

The internet will set us free—or will it? The scene: crowds surge through the streets of Tunis and Cairo, inspired by a campaign launched on Facebook and drawn to protest sites by text messages. Meanwhile, images of grassroots protest and conflict are captured on cellphones and instantly sent around the world. Many pundits have predicted that mighty dictatorships could collapse, not by military, but through campaigns of social media. All that was needed was to unleash the power of the Internet and let a thousand Twitter revolutions bloom.

But according to Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, the Internet is an uncontrollable and inherently political medium that will frustrate those who believe democracy can be promoted with the push of a button. In his spirited critique of “internet freedom,” the Belarus-born Morozov (a contributing editor to Foreign Policy and author of their “Net Effect” blog about the Internet’s impact on global politics) shows how social media and web 2.0 do not always foster civic engagement and democratic reform. He argues that we have become swayed by the misty utopianism of “iPod liberalism”—the naïve assumption that access to the tools of tech innovation in places from Bahrain to Belarus and beyond will lead to Western-style liberal democracy. In fact, Morozov argues, the net can make authoritarian governments even more powerful and repressive—as witnessed by the recent phone and internet outages across the Middle East.

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