Saturday, January 29, 2011

The dark side of Internet for Egyptian and Tunisian protesters - The Globe and Mail

Excerpt from a timely reality check by Evgeny Morozov (author of  The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom)

The lesson for tyrants here is simple: The only way to minimize their exposure to digitally enabled protests is to establish full control over all telecommunications infrastructure in the country. A “kill-switch” button to turn off all digital networks in times of a crisis is a must. This explains why just a few months after the contested elections of 2009, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard acquired a controlling stake in Telecommunication Company of Iran, giving the group that is traditionally loyal to Mr. Ahmadinejad control over the country's telephone, mobile and Internet communications. It is likely that other dictators will heed the Iranian experience as they watch Tunisia and Egypt.

The events in these two countries provide grounds for optimism about the power of the Internet, but the biggest problem with studying the impact of the Internet on authoritarianism is that most often it benefits both the oppressor and the oppressed (albeit to different degrees). Thus, the Internet is an excellent platform for inciting revolutionary sentiment – and tracking down wannabe revolutionaries; it is a handy vehicle for spreading propaganda – and revealing government lies; it provides a platform that facilitates government surveillance – and helps people evade it.

The dark side of Internet for Egyptian and Tunisian protesters - The Globe and Mail

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