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Web Diplomacy 2.0: Opportunities, Threats and Challenges in Exporting Democracy On Line 2011 International Affairs Conference: ‘Democratisation and New.

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Presentation on theme: "Web Diplomacy 2.0: Opportunities, Threats and Challenges in Exporting Democracy On Line 2011 International Affairs Conference: ‘Democratisation and New."— Presentation transcript:

1 Web Diplomacy 2.0: Opportunities, Threats and Challenges in Exporting Democracy On Line 2011 International Affairs Conference: ‘Democratisation and New Media’ The Royal Irish Academy Sarah Oates University of Glasgow


3  Translated as ‘ Thank you Facebook ’ but actually says ‘ 'Thank you, Egypt's Facebook youth'. 'Thank you, Egypt's Facebook youth' 'Thank you, Egypt's Facebook youth'  “ … therein lies the visible impact of social media. It doesn't create uprisings or anything else, but it opens up ways of thinking and behaving because it makes thinking and behaving in those ways (horizontally, self-organised) more effective than before. It opens up new fields of possibilities. ”  _with_old_tech_egypt

4  To what extent can the internet challenge authoritarian regimes?  To whom does the internet grant more power – authoritarian regimes or citizens?  Can the internet play David to the Goliath of a repressive regime.  How and when can the internet challenge authoritarianism?

5 Don’t send in the online Trojan Horse image:

6 ‘Astro-turfing’ vs grass roots

7 How does the internet change political communication?   A low-cost (can be virtually no-cost) ability to distribute information to a broad global audience   Potential freedom from editorial filter and controls   Relative freedom from national media control and an ability to build an international audience   An interactive environment in which people can easily cross from being news consumers to news producers

8 Challenges to public diplomacy in the 21st century   Message. What role do nations choose to play in a post Cold War, post-9/11 world?   Reach. How do states project ‘soft power’ in a sphere in which communication is increasingly personalized and atomized?   Cost. In a complex, multi-polar world states find it difficult to sustain traditional funding and presence to showcase their nation.

9 Traditional concept of propaganda   Lies from the East   Truth from the West

10 New understanding of public diplomacy   Soft power   Open-source intelligence   Understanding the audience in cross- national context

11 What can we learn about Russians on line?   The conundrum: More media has not led to more freedom in Russia. In fact, the media have undermined the creation of institutions such as political parties since 1993.   Online analysis has found little compelling evidence of democratic dialogue in Russia – even though Freedom House still rates the Russian internet as ‘partly free’ and the media as ‘not free.’Why can’t the internet fill in the democratic deficit?   Earlier studies of the Russian suggest that trying to apply Western/U.S. concepts of freedom and liberty are not useful. Talking about free vs. not free can be counter-productive.

12 Yet, there is evidence of democratic engagement on Runet   Case of kidney dialysis patients.   Case of parents of children with disablities.   Reframe ‘rights’ as ‘benefits’ and there is a great deal of discussion about rights in the Russian online sphere.

13 What hangs in the balance for Russia and the rest of us? For States: Rising understanding of how to harness the internet through ‘third-generation’ controls (OpenNet Institute)   First-generation: block access   Second-generation: censor and repress   Third-generation: a more subtle and refined way of simultaneously using the internet control national populations

14   The OpenNet Institute: “the center of gravity of practices aimed at managing cyberspace has shifted subtly from policies and practices aimed at denying access to content to methods that seek to normalize control and the exercise of power in cyberspace through a variety of means.”   3 rd generation of internet control allows states to deploy the internet in a carefully choreographed manner that simultaneously promotes state interests through propaganda; discredits opponents via information campaigns or strategic take-downs of internet sites at critical political moments; and selectively intimidates or arrests of cyber-dissidents.   At the same time, repressive states set up systems to coerce or encourage citizens to stay within national domains or types of websites in the online world, further promoting the distortion of information while they harvest online interactions to gain nuanced information on political actions and orientations of individuals.   Rebecca MacKinnon describes a similar phenomenon, which she dubs ‘networked authoritarianism’, in China. See MacKinnon, R. (2011) China’s ‘Networked Authoritarianism’. Journal of Democracy 22 (2): 32-46.

15 At the same time, on the side of the citizen:   Citizens are generally more nimble and creative than states   Once a public sphere is created, it will migrate among platforms, as it did in Egypt   Philip Howard in Dictator or Democracy: States can be brought down by citizen- centered online movements, but new democratic states are consolidated by state-centered online support

16 Arab Spring or Arab Season?   Change may be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.   New information and communication technologies may rewrite power dynamics in line with changing attitudes on the part of generations   Is this the rise of new politics that subverts traditional political rules and institutions?

17   Perhaps the ‘end of history’ as written by states, but the ‘beginning of history’ as written by the citizens   States need to listen rather than just broadcast. States need to find ways in which their messages can resonate with national and sub-national populations.

18 What needs to change?   Academics: Should fundamentally change the culture of narrow discussions and closed projects to work collaboratively and across disciplines.   Politicians: Should accept that open-source intelligence needs to inform the direction of politics.   Academics and politicians should work together to develop a robust tool-kit for enabling the best possible collection and understanding of the public’s voice from data in the online sphere. We need to get beyond concepts such as trends, branding, sentiment, etc. and link into national identity and values in a meaningful way.

19 The online balance of power: Citizens vs states CITIZENS  Organise both top-down, i.e. leaders and organisations can use the internet to inform and mobilise  Organise from the grass roots.  Low cost.  Very quick.  Disseminate information without censorship. Advantages:  Speed  Creativity  International aspects of online sphere avoids national controls  Avoids censorship Disadvantages  Activity is very visible to the state.  Could possibly impede off-line protest STATE  Monitor citizens: what information they search for, which information they consume.  Penetrate networks, through analysis of social-networking media and in other ways.  Obtain extremely timely and nuanced information on citizen opinion and activity. Advantages  Able to monitor citizens much more closely and effectively in a passive way.  Can detect and deter opposition more quickly and efficiently Disadvantage  Government apparatus fairly slow and clunky so can’t really take advantage in some ways.

20 But what if …   States worked with citizens …

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