Evgeny Morozov is a fellow at the Open Society Institute and has written for The Economist, Newsweek, and other publications, and is working on a book on how the Internet transforms global politics.
His latest article in the Boston Review:
It is thus tempting to embrace the earlier cyber–optimism, trace the success of many political and democratic initiatives around the globe to the coming of Web 2.0, and dismiss the misgivings of the Carnegie report. Could it be that changes in the Web over the past six years—especially the rise of social networking, blogging, and video and photo sharing—represent the flowering of the Internet’s democratizing potential? This thesis seems to explain the dynamics of current Internet censorship: sites that feature user–generated content—Facebook, YouTube, Blogger—are especially unpopular with authoritarian regimes. A number of academic and popular books on the subject point to nothing short of a revolution, both in politics and information (see, for example, Antony Loewenstein’s The Blogging Revolution or Elizabeth Hanson’s The Information Revolution and World Politics, both published last year). Were the cyber–optimists right after all? Does the Internet spread freedom?
He argues that it generally does not and that while the internet may bring certain groups together, the technology largely reinforces existing thoughts rather than challenging authoritarianism.
I would disagree, as my book demonstrates. The web won’t on its own bring down dictators, but it is certainly affecting democratic movements and transparency across the globe.