Think again: Why authoritarian regimes like social media

Evgeny Morozov (who also blogs at FP) has been a long-time critic of the notion that the internet is ultimately a liberalizing force in international politics. His contrarian views on tech in authoritarian regimes are always thought-provoking. In the TEDtalk below, Morozov lays out his case against “cyber-utopianism” and “iPod liberalism”. I would also recommend reading the comments which offer more information and some contrary views.

*Autobiographical note:* As many may know, my graduate thesis was on Chinese-Japanese competition over energy resources. Before switching to that topic at the last minute, I was working on the use of the internet and blogs by Iranian mullahs and political activists. Imagine my sense of regret at the missed opportunity during the Twitter revolution in Iran earlier this year.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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4 Responses to Think again: Why authoritarian regimes like social media

  1. Jack UH says:

    Rebecca MacKinnon has done some reporting on “cybertarianism” in China. It’s an interesting look at how the Chinese Communist Party uses varying levels of control and pressure to guide (or manipulate depending on perspective) online dialogue and news.

    http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/

  2. SEEROV says:

    Out of all the weapons and platforms DoD and the defense establishment ever created, the Internet is by far the most important for the defense of America’s way of life. Because of this I’m positive that we’ll be hearing more calls for Internet censorship in the near future. Some of these calls will be packaged like this Ted Talk.

  3. Ralph Hitchens says:

    I honor Morozov as well for his contrarian but eminently sensible view on the present (and persistent) manufactured hysteria over cyber security. URL — http://www.bostonreview.net/BR34.4/morozov.php. (Hope it’s still up.)

  4. Younghusband says:

    @Seerov: Do you think Morozov is calling for censorship? I think he is just arguing that the openness of the internet is not a guarantee of flourishing liberalism, but can be used for nefarious purposes as well, thus we should watch what we say. Unless you mean that the nefarious among us will manufacture people like Morozov to warn us about speaking our minds for the sake of personal security when it is truly for the security of the state? Ooooh! How matryoshkian! How 5GW!

    @Ralph Hitchens: Excellent article sir.