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Posts Tagged ‘Evgeny Morozov’

‘The Net Delusion’

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on April 3, 2011

The net isn’t always what we think, thinks the author, Evgeny Morozov, in his book, “The Net Delusion”. Mr. Morozov argues, the west’s reckless promotion of technological tools as pro-democratic agents has provoked authoritarian regimes to crack down on online activity in some style: not just closing down or blocking websites, but using social networks to infiltrate protest groups and track down protesters, seeding their own propaganda online, and generally out-resourcing and out-smarting their beleaguered citizenry.

The following review of the book – in Egyptian context – is taken from the New York Observer

It’s not often that a nonfiction book appears whose thesis is immediately tested by events. But such is the fate of Evgeny Morozov’s “Net Delusion”

Morozov’s argument that the internet does more harm than good in political contexts is running up against violent reality in Egypt.

Morozov takes the ideas of what he calls “cyber-utopians” and shows how reality perverts them in one political situation after another. In Iran, the regime used the internet to crush the internet-driven protests in June 2009. In Russia, neofascists use the internet to organize pogroms. And on and on. Morozov has written hundreds of pages to make the point that technology is amoral and cuts many different ways. Just as radio can bolster democracy or — as in Rwanda — incite genocide, so the internet can help foment a revolution but can also help crush it. This seems obvious, yet it has often been entirely lost as grand claims are made for the internet’s positive, liberating qualities.

And suddenly here are Tunisia and, even more dramatically, Egypt, simultaneously proving and refuting Morozov’s argument. In both cases, social networking allowed truths that had been whispered to be widely broadcast and commented upon. In Tunisia and Egypt — and now across the Arab world — Facebook and Twitter have made people feel less alone in their rage at the governments that stifle their lives. There is nothing more politically emboldening than to feel, all at once, that what you have experienced as personal bitterness is actually an objective condition, a universal affliction in your society that therefore can be universally opposed.

Yet at the same time, the Egyptian government shut off the internet, which is an effective way of using the internet. And according to one Egyptian blogger, misinformation is being spread through Facebook — as it was in Iran — just as real information was shared by anti-government protesters. This is the “dark side of internet freedom” that Morozov is warning against. It is the freedom to wantonly crush the forces of freedom.

All this should not surprise anyone. It seems that, just as with every other type of technology of communication, the internet is not a solution to human conflict but an amplifier for all aspects of a conflict. As you read about pro-government agitators charging into crowds of protesters on horseback and camel, you realize that nothing has changed in our new internet age. The human situation is the same as it always was, except that it is the same in a newer and more intense way. Decades from now, we will no doubt be celebrating a spanking new technology that promises to liberate us from the internet. And the argument joined by Morozov will occur once again.


 


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