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The Politics of the Internet 5 Democracy and the Internet Does the Internet promote democracy? Does the Internet promote democracy? Traditional thesis.

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Presentation on theme: "The Politics of the Internet 5 Democracy and the Internet Does the Internet promote democracy? Does the Internet promote democracy? Traditional thesis."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Politics of the Internet 5 Democracy and the Internet Does the Internet promote democracy? Does the Internet promote democracy? Traditional thesis – Internet and globalization spread the market and democratic values. Traditional thesis – Internet and globalization spread the market and democratic values. Force a choice between free market vanilla and North Korea (Thomas Friedman). Force a choice between free market vanilla and North Korea (Thomas Friedman). Complicated to decide what the real effects of the Internet are. Complicated to decide what the real effects of the Internet are. Do authoritarian rulers just have to bow down to the unstoppable forces of free information? Do authoritarian rulers just have to bow down to the unstoppable forces of free information?

2 The Politics of the Internet 5 Thinking about the Internet and democracy Key questions. Key questions. What are the specific effects of the Internet in non- democratic countries? What are the specific effects of the Internet in non- democratic countries? Does the Internet necessarily enhance the power of citizens against non-democratic governments? Does the Internet necessarily enhance the power of citizens against non-democratic governments? Does the Internet necessarily promote openness? Does the Internet necessarily promote openness? Are authoritarian governments unable to use the Internet for their own ends? Are authoritarian governments unable to use the Internet for their own ends? Is the usual way of thinking about these things (democracy activists vs. authoritarian governments) sufficient to explain what is happening? Is the usual way of thinking about these things (democracy activists vs. authoritarian governments) sufficient to explain what is happening?

3 The Politics of the Internet 5 Struggles over information Need to think about 2 quite different sets of factors. Need to think about 2 quite different sets of factors. (1) Direct battles between Internet activists and authoritarian governments. (1) Direct battles between Internet activists and authoritarian governments. The Internet may not lead to instant democracy – but it does give new weapons both to democratic activists/outsiders and authoritarian governments. The Internet may not lead to instant democracy – but it does give new weapons both to democratic activists/outsiders and authoritarian governments. Battle for democracy is often a battle over information/public perceptions. Battle for democracy is often a battle over information/public perceptions. Why authoritarian governments almost never have a free press. Why authoritarian governments almost never have a free press. The Internet transforms this battle – and how democracy activists and the government fight with each other. The Internet transforms this battle – and how democracy activists and the government fight with each other. (2) Indirect transformative effects on civil society. (2) Indirect transformative effects on civil society. Internet may create a new set of relationships – which are more difficult for the state to control. Internet may create a new set of relationships – which are more difficult for the state to control. May have both positive and negative consequences. May have both positive and negative consequences.

4 The Politics of the Internet 5 The weapons of choice Democracy activists/citizens. Democracy activists/citizens. Often find it easier to organize among themselves. Often find it easier to organize among themselves. Hacktivism as a form of civil disobedience Hacktivism as a form of civil disobedience Have new ways to spread information domestically. Have new ways to spread information domestically. Have new ways to get information to outside world. Have new ways to get information to outside world. Governments. Governments. Have defensive measures. Have defensive measures. Can block websites/trace /nationalize Internet Can block websites/trace /nationalize Internet Have offensive measures Have offensive measures Can use Internet themselves – spread info/hack networks. Can use Internet themselves – spread info/hack networks.

5 The Politics of the Internet 5 Naïve beginnings … First flush of enthusiasm about the Internet. First flush of enthusiasm about the Internet. Belief that it would spread democratic values and topple tyrants (Cyberlibertarianism). Belief that it would spread democratic values and topple tyrants (Cyberlibertarianism). True not only in developed world but even more so in developing world. True not only in developed world but even more so in developing world. The Internet as a force for globalization. The Internet as a force for globalization. Spreading Western values Spreading Western values Spreading the truth/resisting censorship Spreading the truth/resisting censorship

6 The Politics of the Internet 5 … meet the brick wall of reality Little evidence of the Internet leading to the fall of tyrants. Little evidence of the Internet leading to the fall of tyrants. Although it did embarrass some semi- democratic governments. Although it did embarrass some semi- democratic governments. Chiapas revolt in Mexico – first revolution by laptop. Chiapas revolt in Mexico – first revolution by laptop. Commandante Marcos – rapid contact with outside world. Commandante Marcos – rapid contact with outside world. Important to concessions made by the Mexican government – although these concessions not delivered. Important to concessions made by the Mexican government – although these concessions not delivered.

7 The Politics of the Internet 5 Rethinking democracy and the Internet Second thoughts about how the Internet empowers pro-democracy forces. Second thoughts about how the Internet empowers pro-democracy forces. Focuses on specifics of how the Internet affects all actors. Focuses on specifics of how the Internet affects all actors. Much more subtle – and less firm in its predictions. Much more subtle – and less firm in its predictions. Argues that the Internet does give new tools to democratic activists. Argues that the Internet does give new tools to democratic activists. But that governments can respond – and may have tools of their own. But that governments can respond – and may have tools of their own.

8 The Politics of the Internet 5 How the Internet affects activists Internet is in theory of enormous help to democratic activists. Internet is in theory of enormous help to democratic activists. Allows them to communicate among themselves Allows them to communicate among themselves Allows them to communicate with the mass public more easily. Allows them to communicate with the mass public more easily. Allows them to communicate with outside world (democratic countries) – and mobilize opinion there. Allows them to communicate with outside world (democratic countries) – and mobilize opinion there.

9 The Politics of the Internet 5 Communicating among themselves Can use and web pages to communicate among each other. Can use and web pages to communicate among each other. Web servers may be located in different countries. Web servers may be located in different countries. much more difficult for authoritarian regimes to monitor, control and tap. much more difficult for authoritarian regimes to monitor, control and tap. Especially when activists use codes and cryptographic techniques. Especially when activists use codes and cryptographic techniques.

10 The Politics of the Internet 5 Communicating with the public Can use the Internet to communicate with the general public. Can use the Internet to communicate with the general public. Solves a key problem for pro-democracy forces in most authoritarian regimes. Solves a key problem for pro-democracy forces in most authoritarian regimes. The government has control of most other forms of mass communication. The government has control of most other forms of mass communication. Some countries have required permits for typewriters. Some countries have required permits for typewriters. But activists can use WWW/ to communicate with general public (democratic spam mail). But activists can use WWW/ to communicate with general public (democratic spam mail).

11 The Politics of the Internet 5 Communicating with outside world Getting case across to outside world is often hugely important to democratization. Getting case across to outside world is often hugely important to democratization. Boomerang effect – pressures placed on government by outside actors. Boomerang effect – pressures placed on government by outside actors. Internet makes it much easier and cheaper to do this. Internet makes it much easier and cheaper to do this. Allows information to be smuggled out of the country more easily – and then spread to others (often through exile community/other websites). Allows information to be smuggled out of the country more easily – and then spread to others (often through exile community/other websites).

12 The Politics of the Internet 5 Tools of government Governments, however can respond defensively in different ways. Governments, however can respond defensively in different ways. Can seek to disrupt communications among activists. Can seek to disrupt communications among activists. Can seek to block them from communicating with mass public Can seek to block them from communicating with mass public Can seek to stop them communicating with outside world. Can seek to stop them communicating with outside world.

13 The Politics of the Internet 5 Disrupting communications Governments can seek to block and track communications among activists. Governments can seek to block and track communications among activists. Evidence that many authoritarian governments have sophisticated computer people doing this. Evidence that many authoritarian governments have sophisticated computer people doing this. And US firms acting as subcontractors. And US firms acting as subcontractors. Activists may find it difficult to use cryptographic techniques in etc. if nobody else does. Activists may find it difficult to use cryptographic techniques in etc. if nobody else does. Stand out from other users of the Internet. Stand out from other users of the Internet.

14 The Politics of the Internet 5 Stopping the mass spread of information Governments may prevent message from getting out to mass publics. Governments may prevent message from getting out to mass publics. Blocking of certain web pages/ from certain sources. Blocking of certain web pages/ from certain sources. Can also block citizens from surfing web/monitor them. Can also block citizens from surfing web/monitor them. Nobody except for government officials have access to the WWW in North Korea. Nobody except for government officials have access to the WWW in North Korea.

15 The Politics of the Internet 5 Control of Networks Again, this is possible because of the points of control that networks offer. Again, this is possible because of the points of control that networks offer. Countries can censor the Internet in various ways, at various different levels. Countries can censor the Internet in various ways, at various different levels. Through control of the backbone/single gateway Through control of the backbone/single gateway Through pressures on independent ISPs Through pressures on independent ISPs Through state monopolies on ISPs (or exclusive contracts for safe businesses). Through state monopolies on ISPs (or exclusive contracts for safe businesses).

16 The Politics of the Internet 5 Control of backbone/gateway Some countries have single gateways to the Internet. Some countries have single gateways to the Internet. This allows them to monitor and perhaps control all communications in/out of country. This allows them to monitor and perhaps control all communications in/out of country. Example: Saudi Arabia. Example: Saudi Arabia. All WWW traffic is forwarded to a set of proxy servers under the control of the Saudi Arabian government. All WWW traffic is forwarded to a set of proxy servers under the control of the Saudi Arabian government. Can filter specific pages/web addresses Can filter specific pages/web addresses Possible to circumvent (dial up accounts outside Saudi Arabia – but expensive and inconvenient). Possible to circumvent (dial up accounts outside Saudi Arabia – but expensive and inconvenient).

17 The Politics of the Internet 5 Control of Backbone II China not only blocks specific IP addresses, it also has dynamic filtering. China not only blocks specific IP addresses, it also has dynamic filtering. Can block pages that contain specific words (Falun Gong). Can block pages that contain specific words (Falun Gong). Has also blocked access sporadically to search engines at sensitive moments. Has also blocked access sporadically to search engines at sensitive moments. Blocked Google before an important Party Congress. Blocked Google before an important Party Congress. Now seems to have forced Google (and Yahoo! and Microsoft) to cooperate more generally. Now seems to have forced Google (and Yahoo! and Microsoft) to cooperate more generally.

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19 The Politics of the Internet 5 Control of ISPs Iran: for many years, access to the net was relatively open in Iran. Iran: for many years, access to the net was relatively open in Iran. Last year, authorities have begun to crack down, ordering ISPs to ban sites on official blacklists. Last year, authorities have begun to crack down, ordering ISPs to ban sites on official blacklists. Not as effective as exercising control at backbone level. Not as effective as exercising control at backbone level. But increasingly, ISPs in Iran are being drawn into the net of government (large ISPs have government links). But increasingly, ISPs in Iran are being drawn into the net of government (large ISPs have government links).

20 The Politics of the Internet 5 Monitoring as a control methodology China has been to the forefront of efforts to ensure that ISPs and online chatrooms etc are monitored for criticism of the party, praise of Falun Gong etc. China has been to the forefront of efforts to ensure that ISPs and online chatrooms etc are monitored for criticism of the party, praise of Falun Gong etc. Makes ISPs self-police – or face shutting down or more serious consequences. Makes ISPs self-police – or face shutting down or more serious consequences. Has a substantial chilling effect on political speech. Has a substantial chilling effect on political speech. Although limits are being pushed Although limits are being pushed Some kinds of borderline critical speech are tolerated (though hard to predict). Some kinds of borderline critical speech are tolerated (though hard to predict). Certain kinds of political speech (patriotic speech) are considered acceptable Certain kinds of political speech (patriotic speech) are considered acceptable

21 The Politics of the Internet 5 An active role for government Authoritarian governments can also use Internet as a weapon – not just defend against it. Authoritarian governments can also use Internet as a weapon – not just defend against it. Can spread their own message using the Internet. Can spread their own message using the Internet. Official publications. Official publications. Unofficial forms of communication. Unofficial forms of communication. Can hack sites abroad that they dont like. Can hack sites abroad that they dont like. Chinese government and Falun Gong movement. Chinese government and Falun Gong movement.

22 The Politics of the Internet 5 The Internet in Putins Russia In theory – Internet could serve as an alternative to a media sector that is only weakly democratic. In theory – Internet could serve as an alternative to a media sector that is only weakly democratic. TV stations are controlled by government friendly forces. TV stations are controlled by government friendly forces. Newspapers are either ineffective, or pro- government. Newspapers are either ineffective, or pro- government. But the Internet doesnt actually provide much in the way of alternative voices – why? But the Internet doesnt actually provide much in the way of alternative voices – why?

23 The Politics of the Internet 5 Indirect State control Not censorship as in China Not censorship as in China Govt owns the largest ISP, and plays a dominant role in the market. Govt owns the largest ISP, and plays a dominant role in the market. Laws require that ISPs allow govt access to incoming and outgoing traffic. Laws require that ISPs allow govt access to incoming and outgoing traffic. Yet the government doesnt use these to block traffic as in other parts of the world. Yet the government doesnt use these to block traffic as in other parts of the world. Instead, a softer approach. Instead, a softer approach.

24 The Politics of the Internet 5 Soft authoritarianism Russian government has an Internet policy similar to that for the normal media. Russian government has an Internet policy similar to that for the normal media. Shadowy backers for many online news sources, whom the Kremlin can influence. Shadowy backers for many online news sources, whom the Kremlin can influence. Denunciations of alternative voices as being catspaws for foreign interests. Denunciations of alternative voices as being catspaws for foreign interests. This means that much of the information available online for Russians is, effectively, propaganda. This means that much of the information available online for Russians is, effectively, propaganda. More subtle – but also perhaps more effective in the long run. More subtle – but also perhaps more effective in the long run.

25 The Politics of the Internet 5 Countermeasures Are there any available countermeasures through which it might be possible to encourage democratic activists and make it more difficult for governments to constrain them? Are there any available countermeasures through which it might be possible to encourage democratic activists and make it more difficult for governments to constrain them? Yes – but have their own problems. Yes – but have their own problems. Proxy servers/anonymizers. Proxy servers/anonymizers. Counter-propaganda Counter-propaganda

26 The Politics of the Internet 5 Proxy servers/anonymizers Possible to use anonymizers/proxy servers in order to make WWW access easier. Possible to use anonymizers/proxy servers in order to make WWW access easier. These servers allow one to access WWW indirectly, in a way that makes it difficult for outsiders to see where youre surfing. These servers allow one to access WWW indirectly, in a way that makes it difficult for outsiders to see where youre surfing. But have own problems. But have own problems. Censors can block the anonymizers themselves. Censors can block the anonymizers themselves. Cat and mouse game of changing WWW/IP addresses. Cat and mouse game of changing WWW/IP addresses. May also have unexpected consequences. May also have unexpected consequences.

27 The Politics of the Internet 5 IBB Anonymizer In late 2003, the US International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) introduced an anonymizing service aimed at Iran, which was starting to experiment with censorship technology. In late 2003, the US International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) introduced an anonymizing service aimed at Iran, which was starting to experiment with censorship technology. But wanted to avoid being overwhelmed with porn requests (also political embarrassment). But wanted to avoid being overwhelmed with porn requests (also political embarrassment). Thus introduced keyword based censorship. Thus introduced keyword based censorship. Blocked access to many entirely innocent sites. Blocked access to many entirely innocent sites. USembassy.state.gov USembassy.state.gov Georgewbush.com Georgewbush.com

28 The Politics of the Internet 5 Counterpropaganda Possible for outside actors interested in promoting democracy to create counter- propaganda for use in countries like Russia etc. Possible for outside actors interested in promoting democracy to create counter- propaganda for use in countries like Russia etc. But this has its own problems. But this has its own problems. Can be blocked by authoritarian regimes. Can be blocked by authoritarian regimes. May be viewed with suspicion – esp. if it comes from government sources. May be viewed with suspicion – esp. if it comes from government sources. The US lack of success in promoting democracy in the Arab world. The US lack of success in promoting democracy in the Arab world.

29 The Politics of the Internet 5 A new kind of war Result – no simple win for democracy against authoritarian governments. Result – no simple win for democracy against authoritarian governments. But no easy win for authoritarian governments either. But no easy win for authoritarian governments either. Instead, a new kind of quiet war. Instead, a new kind of quiet war. Fought with technological weapons – governments seek to block websites, communications, while activists try to circumvent control. Fought with technological weapons – governments seek to block websites, communications, while activists try to circumvent control. Fought in court of public opinion – as both sides seek to persuade others of their version of truth. Fought in court of public opinion – as both sides seek to persuade others of their version of truth.

30 The Politics of the Internet 5 What we have learned Early impression that the Internet would invariably promote democracy. Early impression that the Internet would invariably promote democracy. But reality is more complicated. But reality is more complicated. Internet gives new weapons to democracy activists and to governments. Internet gives new weapons to democracy activists and to governments. New war being fought between the two of them – with new weapons. New war being fought between the two of them – with new weapons.

31 The Politics of the Internet 5 What does this war mean? No definite winners or losers. No definite winners or losers. But even so, it may have more subtle effects. Perhaps we need to look beyond simple fights between democracy activists and governments. But even so, it may have more subtle effects. Perhaps we need to look beyond simple fights between democracy activists and governments. Effects on civil society. Effects on civil society. China as case study. China as case study. China is becoming more nationalistic – in part because of forces unleashed by Internet. China is becoming more nationalistic – in part because of forces unleashed by Internet. But Internet also helps promote more diverse communication – even if its unlikely to lead to democracy flowering tomorrow. But Internet also helps promote more diverse communication – even if its unlikely to lead to democracy flowering tomorrow.

32 China As discussed, China has perhaps the most sophisticated means of Internet monitoring/censorship in existence. As discussed, China has perhaps the most sophisticated means of Internet monitoring/censorship in existence. But also faces some fundamental dilemmas. But also faces some fundamental dilemmas. Wants technology-fueled growth Wants technology-fueled growth Has rapidly growing middle class with aspirations and demands Has rapidly growing middle class with aspirations and demands Problem for an authoritarian society – how do you take advantage of economic growth without allowing increased freedoms to your citizens? Problem for an authoritarian society – how do you take advantage of economic growth without allowing increased freedoms to your citizens?

33 Chinese response China has, despite its authoritarian tendencies, provided some freedom of action to citizens. China has, despite its authoritarian tendencies, provided some freedom of action to citizens. Key aim has been to prevent the creation of alternative political movements that could displace the Communist party from rule. Key aim has been to prevent the creation of alternative political movements that could displace the Communist party from rule. Democracy activists. Democracy activists. But also Falun Gong But also Falun Gong Land protests etc. Land protests etc. Speech which doesnt directly challenge the regime has sometimes been tolerated. Speech which doesnt directly challenge the regime has sometimes been tolerated. But this is a dangerous balance for the Chinese government. But this is a dangerous balance for the Chinese government.

34 Birth of civil society This may mean that civil society is emerging in China. This may mean that civil society is emerging in China. Civil society – a sphere of social relations independent of the state, but not necessarily directly political. Civil society – a sphere of social relations independent of the state, but not necessarily directly political. Clubs Clubs Debating societies Debating societies Websites and blogs? Websites and blogs? This isnt necessarily a precursor to democracy – but may limit the power of the state. This isnt necessarily a precursor to democracy – but may limit the power of the state. Provides individuals with a means of commenting on politics. Provides individuals with a means of commenting on politics. Also may be valuable to an authoritarian regime, which otherwise doesnt know what its people think. Also may be valuable to an authoritarian regime, which otherwise doesnt know what its people think.

35 Positive examples (Washington Post) China Youth Daily saga. China Youth Daily saga. Official publication – but had run some material critical of the government. Official publication – but had run some material critical of the government. Government crackdown included installation of new editor who was a party loyalist, plus incentives to please the Communist party leadership. Government crackdown included installation of new editor who was a party loyalist, plus incentives to please the Communist party leadership. A prominent journalist protested – and his memo was rapidly leaked to the Internet. A prominent journalist protested – and his memo was rapidly leaked to the Internet. Combination of text-messaging, blogs, bulletin boards and saw it widely disseminated despite censorship efforts – prompting a partial reversal of policy. Combination of text-messaging, blogs, bulletin boards and saw it widely disseminated despite censorship efforts – prompting a partial reversal of policy. But journalist in question was fired. But journalist in question was fired.

36 Negative examples Anti-Japan protests last Spring. Anti-Japan protests last Spring. Considerable animus between Japan and China – partly thanks to WWII experience. Considerable animus between Japan and China – partly thanks to WWII experience. Boiled over this Spring due to a variety of controversies between the two countries, and led to anti-Japan protests in China. Boiled over this Spring due to a variety of controversies between the two countries, and led to anti-Japan protests in China. At first, tolerated and perhaps implicitly encouraged by the Chinese government. At first, tolerated and perhaps implicitly encouraged by the Chinese government. Soon, however, led government to be worried that it was slipping out of control – but had difficulty in reining protests in. Soon, however, led government to be worried that it was slipping out of control – but had difficulty in reining protests in.

37 What does this mean? One reasonable interpretation of what is happening: One reasonable interpretation of what is happening: The direct battle between Internet activists and the Chinese government is at a standstill. The direct battle between Internet activists and the Chinese government is at a standstill. Internet not the surefire weapon for pro-democracy people that it seemed to be. Internet not the surefire weapon for pro-democracy people that it seemed to be. But indirect battle is shaping up to be the more important. But indirect battle is shaping up to be the more important. Creation of a civil society, outside the direct control of the state. Creation of a civil society, outside the direct control of the state.

38 What does this mean II Some caution is warranted. Some caution is warranted. (1) This need not necessarily lead inevitably towards democracy – perhaps a Singapore solution. (1) This need not necessarily lead inevitably towards democracy – perhaps a Singapore solution. (2) It may be countered, as in Russia, through clever pro-state propaganda. (2) It may be countered, as in Russia, through clever pro-state propaganda. (3) To the extent that it succeeds, may have its dark side – heightened nationalism etc. (3) To the extent that it succeeds, may have its dark side – heightened nationalism etc. But suggests that there are limits to the ability of authoritarian regimes to simultaneously embrace technological change and maintain control. But suggests that there are limits to the ability of authoritarian regimes to simultaneously embrace technological change and maintain control. Democracy may not be dawning – but interesting things are still happening. Democracy may not be dawning – but interesting things are still happening.


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