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The Politics of the Internet 5 Democracy and the Internet Does the Internet promote democracy? Traditional thesis – Internet and globalization spread the market and democratic values. Force a choice between “free market vanilla and North Korea” (Thomas Friedman).

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the politics of the internet 5 democracy and the internet
The Politics of the Internet 5Democracy and the Internet
  • Does the Internet promote democracy?
    • Traditional thesis – Internet and globalization spread the market and democratic values.
    • Force a choice between “free market vanilla and North Korea” (Thomas Friedman).
    • 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?
the politics of the internet 5 thinking about the internet and democracy
The Politics of the Internet 5Thinking about the Internet and democracy
  • Key questions.
  • 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 promote openness?
    • 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?
the politics of the internet 5 struggles over information
The Politics of the Internet 5Struggles over information
  • Need to think about 2 quite different sets of factors.
  • (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.
    • Battle for democracy is often a battle over information/public perceptions.
    • 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.
  • (2) Indirect transformative effects on civil society.
    • Internet may create a new set of relationships – which are more difficult for the state to control.
    • May have both positive and negative consequences.
the politics of the internet 5 the weapons of choice
The Politics of the Internet 5The weapons of choice
  • Democracy activists/citizens.
    • Often find it easier to organize among themselves.
    • “Hacktivism” as a form of civil disobedience
    • Have new ways to spread information domestically.
    • Have new ways to get information to outside world.
  • Governments.
    • Have defensive measures.
      • Can block websites/trace email/nationalize Internet
    • Have offensive measures
      • Can use Internet themselves – spread info/hack networks.
the politics of the internet 5 na ve beginnings
The Politics of the Internet 5Naïve beginnings …
  • First flush of enthusiasm about the Internet.
  • Belief that it would spread democratic values and topple tyrants (Cyberlibertarianism).
  • True not only in developed world but even more so in developing world.
  • The Internet as a force for globalization.
    • Spreading Western values
    • Spreading the truth/resisting censorship
the politics of the internet 5 meet the brick wall of reality
The Politics of the Internet 5… meet the brick wall of reality
  • Little evidence of the Internet leading to the fall of tyrants.
  • Although it did embarrass some semi-democratic governments.
    • Chiapas revolt in Mexico – first revolution by laptop.
    • “Commandante Marcos” – rapid email contact with outside world.
    • Important to concessions made by the Mexican government – although these concessions not delivered.
the politics of the internet 5 rethinking democracy and the internet
The Politics of the Internet 5Rethinking democracy and the Internet
  • Second thoughts about how the Internet empowers pro-democracy forces.
    • Focuses on specifics of how the Internet affects all actors.
    • Much more subtle – and less firm in its predictions.
    • Argues that the Internet does give new tools to democratic activists.
    • But that governments can respond – and may have tools of their own.
the politics of the internet 5 how the internet affects activists
The Politics of the Internet 5How the Internet affects activists
  • Internet is in theory of enormous help to democratic activists.
  • Allows them to communicate among themselves
  • Allows them to communicate with the mass public more easily.
  • Allows them to communicate with outside world (democratic countries) – and mobilize opinion there.
the politics of the internet 5 communicating among themselves
The Politics of the Internet 5Communicating among themselves
  • Can use email and web pages to communicate among each other.
  • Web servers may be located in different countries.
  • Email much more difficult for authoritarian regimes to monitor, control and tap.
  • Especially when activists use codes and cryptographic techniques.
the politics of the internet 5 communicating with the public
The Politics of the Internet 5Communicating with the public
  • Can use the Internet to communicate with the general public.
  • Solves a key problem for pro-democracy forces in most authoritarian regimes.
    • The government has control of most other forms of mass communication.
    • Some countries have required permits for typewriters.
    • But activists can use WWW/email to communicate with general public (democratic spam mail).
the politics of the internet 5 communicating with outside world
The Politics of the Internet 5Communicating with outside world
  • Getting case across to outside world is often hugely important to democratization.
  • “Boomerang effect” – pressures placed on government by outside actors.
  • 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).
the politics of the internet 5 tools of government
The Politics of the Internet 5Tools of government
  • Governments, however can respond defensively in different ways.
  • Can seek to disrupt communications among activists.
  • Can seek to block them from communicating with mass public
  • Can seek to stop them communicating with outside world.
the politics of the internet 5 disrupting communications
The Politics of the Internet 5Disrupting communications
  • Governments can seek to block and track communications among activists.
  • Evidence that many authoritarian governments have sophisticated computer people doing this.
    • And US firms acting as subcontractors.
  • Activists may find it difficult to use cryptographic techniques in email etc. if nobody else does.
    • Stand out from other users of the Internet.
the politics of the internet 5 stopping the mass spread of information
The Politics of the Internet 5Stopping the mass spread of information
  • Governments may prevent message from getting out to mass publics.
  • Blocking of certain web pages/email from certain sources.
  • Can also block citizens from surfing web/monitor them.
    • Nobody except for government officials have access to the WWW in North Korea.
the politics of the internet 5 control of networks
The Politics of the Internet 5Control of Networks
  • 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.
  • Through control of the backbone/single gateway
  • Through pressures on independent ISPs
  • Through state monopolies on ISPs (or exclusive contracts for ‘safe’ businesses).
the politics of the internet 5 control of backbone gateway
The Politics of the Internet 5Control of backbone/gateway
  • Some countries have single gateways to the Internet.
  • This allows them to monitor and perhaps control all communications in/out of country.
  • Example: Saudi Arabia.
    • 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
    • Possible to circumvent (dial up accounts outside Saudi Arabia – but expensive and inconvenient).
the politics of the internet 5 control of backbone ii
The Politics of the Internet 5Control of Backbone II
  • China not only blocks specific IP addresses, it also has dynamic filtering.
  • Can block pages that contain specific words (Falun Gong).
  • Has also blocked access sporadically to search engines at sensitive moments.
  • Blocked Google before an important Party Congress.
  • Now seems to have forced Google (and Yahoo! and Microsoft) to cooperate more generally.
the politics of the internet 5 control of isps
The Politics of the Internet 5Control of ISPs
  • 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.’
  • 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).
the politics of the internet 5 monitoring as a control methodology
The Politics of the Internet 5Monitoring 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.
  • Makes ISPs self-police – or face shutting down or more serious consequences.
  • Has a substantial chilling effect on political speech.
  • Although limits are being pushed
    • Some kinds of borderline critical speech are tolerated (though hard to predict).
    • Certain kinds of political speech (patriotic speech) are considered acceptable
the politics of the internet 5 an active role for government
The Politics of the Internet 5An active role for government
  • Authoritarian governments can also use Internet as a weapon – not just defend against it.
  • Can spread their own message using the Internet.
    • Official publications.
    • “Unofficial” forms of communication.
  • Can hack sites abroad that they don’t like.
    • Chinese government and Falun Gong movement.
the politics of the internet 5 the internet in putin s russia
The Politics of the Internet 5The Internet in Putin’s Russia
  • 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.
  • Newspapers are either ineffective, or pro-government.
  • But the Internet doesn’t actually provide much in the way of alternative voices – why?
the politics of the internet 5 indirect state control
The Politics of the Internet 5Indirect State control
  • Not censorship as in China
    • 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.
    • Yet the government doesn’t use these to block traffic as in other parts of the world.
  • Instead, a softer approach.
the politics of the internet 5 soft authoritarianism
The Politics of the Internet 5Soft authoritarianism
  • 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.
  • Denunciations of alternative voices as being catspaws for “foreign” interests.
  • 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.
the politics of the internet 5 countermeasures
The Politics of the Internet 5Countermeasures
  • 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.
  • Proxy servers/anonymizers.
  • Counter-propaganda
the politics of the internet 5 proxy servers anonymizers
The Politics of the Internet 5Proxy servers/anonymizers
  • 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 you’re surfing.
  • But have own problems.
    • Censors can block the anonymizers themselves.
    • Cat and mouse game of changing WWW/IP addresses.
    • May also have unexpected consequences.
the politics of the internet 5 ibb anonymizer
The Politics of the Internet 5IBB 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.
  • But wanted to avoid being overwhelmed with porn requests (also political embarrassment).
  • Thus introduced keyword based censorship.
  • Blocked access to many entirely innocent sites.
    • USembassy.state.gov
    • Georgewbush.com
    • www.hotmail.com
the politics of the internet 5 counterpropaganda
The Politics of the Internet 5Counterpropaganda
  • 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.
    • Can be blocked by authoritarian regimes.
    • 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 politics of the internet 5 a new kind of war
The Politics of the Internet 5A new kind of war
  • Result – no “simple” win for democracy against authoritarian governments.
  • But no easy win for authoritarian governments either.
  • Instead, a new kind of quiet war.
    • 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.
the politics of the internet 5 what we have learned
The Politics of the Internet 5What we have learned
  • Early impression that the Internet would invariably promote democracy.
  • But reality is more complicated.
  • Internet gives new weapons to democracy activists and to governments.
  • New war being fought between the two of them – with new weapons.
the politics of the internet 5 what does this war mean
The Politics of the Internet 5What does this war mean?
  • 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.
  • Effects on civil society.
  • China as case study.
    • China is becoming more nationalistic – in part because of forces unleashed by Internet.
    • But Internet also helps promote more diverse communication – even if it’s unlikely to lead to democracy flowering tomorrow.
china
China
  • As discussed, China has perhaps the most sophisticated means of Internet monitoring/censorship in existence.
  • But also faces some fundamental dilemmas.
    • Wants technology-fueled growth
    • 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?
chinese response
Chinese response
  • 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.
    • Democracy activists.
    • But also Falun Gong
    • Land protests etc.
  • Speech which doesn’t directly challenge the regime has sometimes been tolerated.
  • But this is a dangerous balance for the Chinese government.
birth of civil society
Birth of civil society
  • 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.
    • Clubs
    • Debating societies
    • Websites and blogs?
  • This isn’t necessarily a precursor to democracy – but may limit the power of the state.
  • Provides individuals with a means of commenting on politics.
  • Also may be valuable to an authoritarian regime, which otherwise doesn’t know what its people think.
positive examples washington post
Positive examples (Washington Post)
  • China Youth Daily saga.
    • 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.
  • A prominent journalist protested – and his memo was rapidly leaked to the Internet.
  • Combination of text-messaging, blogs, bulletin boards and email saw it widely disseminated despite censorship efforts – prompting a partial reversal of policy.
  • But journalist in question was fired.
negative examples
Negative examples
  • Anti-Japan protests last Spring.
  • 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.
  • 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.
what does this mean
What does this mean?
  • One reasonable interpretation of what is happening:
  • 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.
  • But indirect battle is shaping up to be the more important.
    • Creation of a civil society, outside the direct control of the state.
what does this mean ii
What does this mean II
  • Some caution is warranted.
    • (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.
    • (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.
  • Democracy may not be dawning – but interesting things are still happening.