Sunday, February 06, 2011

"The Dark Side of Internet Freedom"

Mary L. Dudziak

With the uprising in Egypt, fueled by social networking, dominating the news, it may be jarring to read Lee Siegel's review of a "brilliant and courageous book," THE NET DELUSION: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov in today's New York Times.
Morozov is interested in the Internet’s political ramifications. “What if the liberating potential of the Internet also contains the seeds of depoliticization and thus dedemocratization?” he asks. The Net delusion of his title is just that. Contrary to the “cyberutopians,” as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom.
The twittered Iranian revolution was crushed:  "The elements of a successful revolution — the complicity of the military, of a powerful political class, of an almost universally discontented population — simply weren’t there."  The internet itself aided repression, as "the Iranian regime used the Web to identify photographs of protesters...and to text the population into counterrevolutionary paranoia."  Continue reading here.

No mention is made of Egypt in this nevertheless very timely and sobering review, but Siegel writes that the book "is immediately tested by events" in Egypt in a recent Arts Beat post.  "Just as with every other type of technology of communication, the internet is not a solution to human conflict but an amplifier for all aspects of a conflict. As you read about pro-government agitators charging into crowds of protesters on horseback and camel, you realize that nothing has changed in our new internet age."

Cross-posted from the Legal History Blog's Sunday book review round-up.

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