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UFPPC (www.ufppc.

org) Digging Deeper CLIII March 21,


2011, 7:00 p.m.

Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (New
York: PublicAffairs, 2011).

[Thesis. "To salvage the Internet's symptomatic of cyber-utopianism (19-


promise to aid the fight against 21). Cyber-utopianism is harmful
authoritarianism, those of us in the West because it overrates the role of
who still care about the future of corporations in democracy movements
democracy will need to ditch both cyber- (21-25). Cyber-utopianism has fueled
utopianism and Internet-centrism," the reactionary movements in authoritarian
combination of which Morozov calls "the countries (25-28). Policymakers are
Net Delusion." (xvii).] remiss (28-31).

Introduction. Since 1989, democracy Ch. 2: Texting Like It's 1989. Hillary
has been in retreat rather than on the Clinton's Jan. 21, 2010, Newseum speech
march (ix-x). There is no consensus on on Internet freedom warned of "a new
how to reverse this (x-xii). "Cyber- information curtain" (33-36).
utopians" enamored of "the Google Neoconservatives like Mark Palmer also
Doctrine" (i.e. technology is liberating embraced cyber-utopianism (36-40).
per se and companies like Google and This attitude is "widely shared across the
Twitter can be enlisted in the struggle for American political spectrum" (40; 40-42).
freedom) believe the Internet can usher Revived Cold War metaphors are being
in a new era of freedom (xiii). But their embraced too uncritically and are rooted
dreams (shared by Morozov until in "a shallow and triumphalist reading of
"recently") have proved to be delusional the end of the Cold War" (47; 42-56).
(xiii-xv). "Internet-centrism", the belief
that the Internet rather than "the Ch. 3: Orwell's Favorite Lolcat. What
context" can shape "democratic change," has happened in the former Soviet bloc
is also a source of misunderstanding (xv- suggests that the Internet produces more
xvi). We shouldn't despair of the "digital captives" than "digital
Internet, but approach it with realism renegades" (70; 57-75). The dichotomy
(xvi-xvii). between Orwell (1984) and Huxley Brave
New World) is outdated; their insights
Ch. 1: The Google Doctrine. The 2009 should be "mash[ed] up and remix[ed]"
Iranian Green Movement disappointed (79; 75-81). More analysis of
cyber-utopians (1-9). The Iranian surveillance, censorship, and propaganda
reaction was followed by similar strategies needed (82-84).
reactions in other countries (9-14). The
U.S. request to Twitter to delay Ch. 4: Censors and Sensibilities.
maintenance in order to facilitate protest Analysis of Russia, Saudi Arabia,
in Iran (sent by 27-year-old Jared Cohen, Thailand, and China shows that models
a member of the State Dept.'s Policy based on the Cold War are obsolete, in
Planning staff [22]) was irresponsible (14- particular because they assume that
15). In fact, there were few (impossible censorship is expensive: in fact, it is
to say how few) Twitter users in Tehran, easy and cheap (85-112).
and it is unclear whether Twitter was
really used to organize protests; on this Ch. 5: Hugo Chavez Would Like to
story, media spread rumors rather than Welcome You to the Spinternet. The
investigate facts (15-19). This was most that Western governments can do
to help democracy activists is to teach should consider "its own need to control
them spin-fighting tools (113-41). and disrupt flows of information under
pressing circumstances" (226; 225-29).
Ch. 6: Why the KGB Wants You to Schools are emerging: the Obama
Join Facebook. It is easy for administration supports a weak form of
authoritarian regimes to use the Internet Internet freedom (defend freedom of
for surveillance and to sow anxiety and expression = Isaiah Berlin's negative
fear in its users (143-67). Technologies liberty), while neoconservatives in the
like Tor provide less privacy than people Hudson Institute, etc., advocate a strong
think (167-70). Cloud computing will form (promote freedom = Berlin's
facilitate surveillance (170-73). Mobile positive liberty) (229-30). The weak
devices facilitate surveillance and can form, like U.S. foreign policy itself, has
easily be shut down (173-78). internal contradictions (230-34). The
U.S. is so dominant on the Internet that
Ch. 7: Why Kierkegaard Hates other countries' concerns are legitimate;
Slacktivism. "Slactivism" (politically U.S. promotion of "Internet freedom"
futile digital activism) is subject to exacerbates these concerns (234-39).
Kierkegaard's criticism of the daily press, No one knows if the Internet is fostering
which he characterized as "absolutely a healthier politics in the U.S. (239-41).
demoralizing," actually diminishes U.S. policymakers should not be so
people's political engagement (184; 179- dismissive of the social concerns of
201). "'In terms of their impact [on the authoritarian governments, since in fact
Arab world, new media] seem more like a they share them (241-44).
stress reliever than a mechanism for
political change,' writes Rami Khouri, Ch. 9: Internet Freedoms and Their
editor-at-large of Lebanon's the Daily Consequences. The Internet may
Star, who fears that the overall impact of foster rather than dissolve religious and
such technologies on political dissent in cultural differences, including
the Middle East might be negative" (202 nationalism, (245-52). Decentralization
[errare est humanum]). does not necessarily mean diffusion of
power, as Jack Balkin of Yale Law has
Ch. 8: Open Networks, Narrow pointed out (252-56). The Internet is
Minds: Cultural Contradictions of being used to promote the darker side of
Internet Freedom. U.S. sanctions on human behavior (256-61). It can weaken
Iran and other countries like Zimbabwe the state itself, contributing to the
actually impede use of the Internet there problem of failed states (261-66).
(205-11). Facebook deleted a site Internet politics can make policymaking
promoting separation of religion and more irrational by making impossible
education in Morocco, and "[i]n reality, amounts of information available in a
there is no reason why Facebook should climate that demands immediate
even bother with defending freedom of response (266-70). Increasing the ability
expression in Morocco" (213; 211-14). to acquire data can have the perverse
Companies' inconsistent policies for effect of increasing ignorance (270-74).
policing content (YouTube is more open
about its strategies than Facebook) (215- Ch. 10: Making History (More Than a
18). While diplomats promote "Internet Browser Menu). Social analysts have
freedom," domestic policymakers are always exaggerated the ability of
advocating regulation of the Internet, but technology to change society (275-83).
it is hard to see how consensus can be But technology's "essential
reached in this area (218-25). Before unpredictability" defies analysis (283-86).
Internet freedom is embraced, the West It often reinforces old practices and
traditions (287-89). But "technological Bibliography. A 70-page chapter-by-
determinism" is intellectually bankrupt chapter bibliography but no footnotes—
(289-95). The notion that "technology is an extremely lazy and self-indulgent
neutral" is also false (295-99). style of documentation.

Ch. 11: The Wicked Fix. Alvin Index. 14 pp.


Weinberg argued in 1966 that technology
is sometimes capable of simplifying About the Author. Evgeny Morozov
complex social problems and rendering is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy
them soluble (301-02). But technological and Boston Review and a fellow at the
fixes always come with hidden costs New America Foundation. He has
(303-05). They can distract from real frequently appeared in mainstream print
social problems (305-08). In 1972, Horst and broadcast media, has taught at
Rittel and Melvin Webber argued that Stanford and Georgetown, and has been
outputs have replaced efficiency as the supported by George Soros's Open
criterion by which planning is judged, Society Foundation.
resulting in interminable ethical
investigations (308-10). Karl Popper was [Additional information. Evgeny
right to argue for piecemeal social Morozov was born in Belarus. His blog,
engineering rather than utopian social "Net Effect," is on the website of Foreign
engineering (311). The technological Policy. He has a personal website at
experts are not well placed to evaluate www.evgenymorozov.com but has not
their own work (312-15). Ethan updated it since June 2010.]
Zuckerman's rebuttal to Hillary Clinton's
January 2010 speech emphasized the [Critique. Though published in 2011,
need for policymakers to figure out which The Net Delusion asks more questions
theory is guiding them (315-18). A call than it answers and already seems out of
for "cyber-realism" (318-20). date. Julian Assange never appears in
the index and the uprisings in the Middle
Acknowledgments. The Open Society East came after it went to press. This is
Foundations, Georgetown, students, a curmudgeonly tome, its chirpy,
editors, Steven Coll of the New America journalistic style belies its sour message:
Foundation, family (321-23). we are not thinking hard enough about
the Internet.]