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Study: Internet erodes democratic protections

From: Tom L.
Sent on: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 11:41 AM
Study: Internet erodes democratic protections

Jan 07, Technology/Internet


*Claims that the internet will "democratize" the global village are not 
supported by research published in the/International Journal of 
Electronic Governance/. Instead, non-democratic governments simply 
exploit the networks to spy on and control their citizens more 
effectively and efficiently than they did before.

In a post-Snowden NSA revelation world, many pundits have suggested that 
the age of true democracy is upon us as social lobbyists, citizen 
advocates and others claw back the agenda from those who rule them. We 
have witnessed it seems revolution via Twitter and Facebook in many 
parts of the world, while information and telecommunications technology 
has given oppressed individuals and groups the power to gradually loosen 
their shackles. But, as Snowden's whistleblowing regarding the 
international eavesdropping carried out by the so-called most free of 
democracies, the United States of America, showed, even those nations in 
which it is the people that purportedly wield the power, nothing is 
quite as it seems.

Now, researcher Martin Karlsson of Örebro University in Sweden has 
trawled the data on e-participation the world over and found that the 
Internet rather than being the great democratizing "carrot" it is yet 
another stick with which authoritarian, and supposedly 
non-authoritarian, governments can beat their citizens 
<> into submission. Among the dozens of 
nations that lack a formal democratic voting system, availability of the 
internet to the populace, he says, is at best an inconvenience in the 
quest to control but more worryingly from the individual's point of view 
it provides the means to exact the opposite of democracy again and again 
from Egypt to Uzbekistan and from China to Saudi Arabia by way of Cuba, 
Ethiopia, Syria, Vietnam, Iran and many other authoritarian nations.

Moreover, Karlsson has found that the non-democratic nations make the 
internet not merely a stick but a double-edged sword, to mix a metaphor. 
They offer their citizens superficially free, uncensored access, 
although the simplest of unveilings generally reveals this to be a mere 
façade while at the same time using this access to monitor their 
citizens and to control behavior in the most insidious way.

"The most pressing question relating to the development of 
e-participation in the non-democratic world is not if the internet 
fosters democratization but rather how the democratic world will react 
to this dual strategy of internet governance characteristics of those 
non-democratic countries that engage in e-participation," says Karlsson. 
He is hopeful that ultimately the non-democratic nations will succumb to 
international pressure and to the urgency with which their oppressed 
citizens find alternative routes to otherwise censored information and 
blocked ICT tools.

*More information:* "Carrots and sticks: Internet governance in 
non-democratic regimes." Martin Karlsson. Int. J. of Electronic 
Governance, 2013 Vol.6, No.3, pp.179 - 186. DOI: 
[masked]/IJEG[masked] <>

Provided by Inderscience Publishers


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