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The Net Delusion

The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
Published:   January 2011
ISBN: 1586488740 | 432 pages
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“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran in June 2009. Yet for all the talk about the democratizing power of the Internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian governments are effectively using the Internet to suppress free speech, hone their surveillance techniques, disseminate cutting-edge propaganda, and pacify their populations with digital entertainment. Could the recent Western obsession with promoting democracy by digital means backfire?

In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder—not easier—to promote democracy. Buzzwords like “21st-century statecraft” sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the reality is that “digital diplomacy” requires just as much oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy.

Marshaling compelling evidence, Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of “Internet freedom” might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.

Reviews

"Evgeny Morozov is wonderfully knowledgeable about the Internet—he seems to have studied every use of it, or every political use, in every country in the world (and to have read all the posts). And he is wonderfully sophisticated and tough-minded about politics. This is a rare combination, and it makes for a powerful argument against the latest versions of technological romanticism. His book should be required reading for every political activist who hopes to change the world on the Internet." — Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"Evgeny Morozov has produced a rich survey of recent history that reminds us that everybody wants connectivity but also varying degrees of control over content, and that connectivity on its own is a very poor predictor of political pluralism…. By doing so, he's gored any number of sacred cows, but he's likewise given us a far more realistic sense of what's possible in cyberspace—both good and bad—in the years ahead. Morozov excels at this sort of counter-intuitive analysis, and he instantly recasts a number of foreign policy debates with this timely book." — Thomas P.M. Barnett, author, The Pentagon's New Map, and senior managing director, Enterra Solutions LLC

"Net Delusion is a brilliant book and a great read. Politicians and pundits have hailed the Internet as a revolutionary force that will empower the masses and consign authoritarian governments to the ash-heap of history, but Morozov explains why such naïve hopes are sadly misplaced. With a keen eye for detail and a probing, skeptical intelligence, he shows that the Web is as likely to distract as to empower, and that both dictators and dissidents can exploit its novel features. If you thought that Facebook, Twitter, and the World Wide Web would trigger a new wave of democratic transformations, read this book and think again." — Stephen M. Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University

"Evgeny Morozov offers a rare note of wisdom and common sense, on an issue overwhelmed by digital utopians'" — Malcolm Gladwell