Does the internet actually inhibit, not encourage democracy? In this new RSA Animate adapted from a talk given in 2009, Evgeny Morozov presents an alternative take on 'cyber-utopianism' -- the seductive idea that the internet plays a largely emancipatory role in global politics.
Exposing some idealistic myths about freedom and technology (during Iran's 'twitter revolution' fewer than 20,000 Twitter users actually took part), Evgeny argues for some realism about the actual uses and abuses of the internet.
Evgeny Morozov is the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. He is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy and runs the magazine's "Net Effect" blog about the Internet's impact on global politics.
Evgeny Morozov is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. He was formerly a Yahoo! fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a fellow at George Soros's Open Society Institute, where he remains on the board of the Information Program.
Previously, he was Director of New Media at the Prague-based NGO Transitions Online (TOL) and a columnist for the Russian newspaper Akzia. He is also on the sub-board of the Information Program of the Open Society Institute.
Morozov's writings have appeared in many publications, including The Economist, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The International Herald Tribune.
Publicly accessible computer network connecting many smaller networks from around the world. It grew out of a U.S. Defense Department program called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), established in 1969 with connections between computers at the University of California at Los Angeles, Stanford Research Institute, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. ARPANET's purpose was to conduct research into computer networking in order to provide a secure and survivable communications system in case of war. As the network quickly expanded, academics and researchers in other fields began to use it as well. In 1971 the first program for sending e-mail over a distributed network was developed; by 1973, the year international connections to ARPANET were made (from Britain and Norway), e-mail represented most of the traffic on ARPANET. The 1970s also saw the development of mailing lists, newsgroups and bulletin-board systems, and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which were adopted as standard protocols for ARPANET in 198283, leading to the widespread use of the term Internet. In 1984 the domain name addressing system was introduced. In 1986 the National Science Foundation established the NSFNET, a distributed network of networks capable of handling far greater traffic, and within a year more than 10,000 hosts were connected to the Internet. In 1988 real-time conversation over the network became possible with the development of Internet Relay Chat protocols (seechat). In 1990 ARPANET ceased to exist, leaving behind the NSFNET, and the first commercial dial-up access to the Internet became available. In 1991 the World Wide Web was released to the public (via FTP). The Mosaic browser was released in 1993, and its popularity led to the proliferation of World Wide Web sites and users. In 1995 the NSFNET reverted to the role of a research network, leaving Internet traffic to be routed through network providers rather than NSF supercomputers. That year the Web became the most popular part of the Internet, surpassing the FTP protocols in traffic volume. By 1997 there were more than 10 million hosts on the Internet and more than 1 million registered domain names. Internet access can now be gained via radio signals, cable-television lines, satellites, and fibre-optic connections, though most traffic still uses a part of the public telecommunications (telephone) network. The Internet is widely regarded as a development of vast significance that will affect nearly every aspect of human culture and commerce in ways still only dimly discernible.
One of the most incoherent blatherings I've ever seen. What is this guy talking about? Anyone?
He starts by arguing that the early builders of the internet were utopian visionaries who believed the internet would lead to more democracy.
Then he states that is not true. He states that those people were disillusioned. He characterizes p)rn)graphy and youtube as though that's all people do online.
No doubt those are ubiquitous uses, but his argument seems more about his own personal discomforts rather than how people actually use the internet. He doesn't even attempt to support his assertions with data, of which there is plenty.
How can he ignore scores of studies that show that the internet is in fact being used to increase democracy, make political change, and spread information. In fact, and with unbelievable irony, he goes through a long, long, long list of examples of how democracy and information have spread throughout the world.
So, what is he arguing, exactly? And how on earth did he ever get on Fora?
Anytime there is a big jump in digitally communicative "freedom", there are always people in government and society alike, in any country, that begin to extend their conservative influences and make efforts to shelter the people. This gives the people the opportunity to stand up for themselves and demand the freedoms they believe they deserve. This is a familiar process and is not shocking nor alarming that this happens in societies that western civilizations consider to be more oppressive than their own.
It is still a step in the right direction (if the people actually want democracy), because it provides not only a platform to contend with governments somewhat anonymously, but also just providing the opportunity to express a criticism of government in some countries is a worthy enough cause.
Also, when Evgeny Morozov says that aside from North Korea and Burma "government leaders are very actively engaged in technology and computers," the implication is internet, and the government leaders in the comic are sitting around a three-sided computer that says, "debate" on it, so I think that is a bit misleading because China has been infamous for its limits imposed on internet use for its people ever since google refused to do business with them unless they provided their people with unlimited access (a controversial topic due to some of the ways google carries out business, yes, but still relevant), to Iran currently expressing openly that they wish to have an internet system in place that would not be connected to the global internet so as not to have western influence affecting their people - to name a couple. And Iran's current situation is just another opportunity for Iran's people to decide what they would like for themselves, and fight for whatever that might be if they disagree.
Internet doesn't "solve" anything, or give a country Instademocracy, but it does provide a great "square one" for oppressed citizens that desire democracy.