The Net Delusion
The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
By Evgeny Morozov
(PublicAffairs, Hardcover, 9781586488741, 432pp.)
Publication Date: November 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran in June 2009. Yet for all the talk about the democratizing power of the Internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian governments are effectively using the Internet to suppress free speech, hone their surveillance techniques, disseminate cutting-edge propaganda, and pacify their populations with digital entertainment. Could the recent Western obsession with promoting democracy by digital means backfire? In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder—not easier—to promote democracy. Buzzwords like “21st-century statecraft” sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the reality is that “digital diplomacy” requires just as much oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy. Marshaling compelling evidence, Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of “Internet freedom” might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.
Evgeny Morozov is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy and Boston Review and a Schwartz Fellow at the New American Foundation. Morozov is currently also a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He was previously a Yahoo! Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a fellow at the Open Society Institute in New York, where he remains on the board of the Information Program. Morozov’s writings have appeared in the Economist, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, Slate, Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the San Francisco Chronicle, Prospect, Dissent, and many other publications.
From bloggers of Myanmar's 2007 Saffron Revolution to tweeters of the protests that followed Iran's 2009 election, the Internet has proven itself to be a tool in promoting change and democracy in the world.Â But Evgeny Morozov, author ofÂ The Net Delusion, argues that it will mostly do the opposite. More at NPR.org
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Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
“Evgeny Morozov is wonderfully knowledgeable about the Internet—he seems to have studied every use of it, or every political use, in every country in the world (and to have read all the posts). And he is wonderfully sophisticated and tough-minded about politics. This is a rare combination, and it makes for a powerful argument against the latest versions of technological romanticism. His book should be required reading for every political activist who hopes to change the world on the Internet.” Thomas P.M. Barnett, author, The Pentagon’s New Map, and senior managing director, Enterra Solutions LLC“Evgeny Morozov has produced a rich survey of recent history that reminds us that everybody wants connectivity but also varying degrees of control over content, and that connectivity on its own is a very poor predictor of political pluralism…. By doing so, he’s gored any number of sacred cows, but he’s likewise given us a far more realistic sense of what’s possible in cyberspace—both good and bad—in the years ahead. Morozov excels at this sort of counter-intuitive analysis, and he instantly recasts a number of foreign policy debates with this timely book.” Stephen M. Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University
“Net Delusion is a brilliant book and a great read. Politicians and pundits have hailed the Internet as a revolutionary force that will empower the masses and consign authoritarian governments to the ash-heap of history, but Morozov explains why such naïve hopes are sadly misplaced. With a keen eye for detail and a probing, skeptical intelligence, he shows that the Web is as likely to distract as to empower, and that both dictators and dissidents can exploit its novel features. If you thought that Facebook, Twitter, and the World Wide Web would trigger a new wave of democratic transformations, read this book and think again.”
Malcolm Gladwell“Evgeny Morozov offers a rare note of wisdom and common sense, on an issue overwhelmed by digital utopians'” Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2010
“In his debut, Foreign Policy contributing editor Morozov pulls the Internet into sharp focus, exposing the limits of its inner logic, its reckless misuse and the dangerous myopia of its champions. A serious consideration of the online world that sparkles with charm and wit.” The Economist, January 7, 2011
“the resulting book is not just unfailingly readable: it is also a provocative, enlightening and welcome riposte to the cyber-utopian worldview.” New Statesman, January 7, 2011
“This book is a passionate and heavily researched account of the case against the cyber-utopians.” The Independent, January, 2011
Internet freedom", in short, is a valiant sword with a number of blades, existing in several dimensions simultaneously. As we go down the rabbit-hole of WikiLeaks, Morozov's humane and rational lantern will help us land without breaking our legs.” Huntington News, January 7, 2011
Morozov's ‘The Net Delusion’ should be read by cockeyed optimists and pessimists alike. It's as important today as McLuhan's books ("The Gutenberg Galaxy," "Understanding Media," "The Medium is the Massage," etc.) were in the 1950s through the 1970s.” New York Times, January, 23 2011
“The Net Delusion, argues that Westerners get carried away by the potential of the Internet to democratize societies, failing to appreciate that dictators can also use the Web to buttress their regimes. A fair point.” Boston Globe, February 9, 2011
“Morozov has produced an invaluable book. Copies should be smuggled to every would-be Twitter revolutionary, and to their clueless groupies in the Western democracies.” New York Times Book Review, February 6, 2011
“As Evgeny Morozov demonstrates in ‘The Net Delusion,’ his brilliant and courageous book, the Internet’s contradictions and confusions are just becoming visible through the fading mist of Internet euphoria. Morozov is interested in the internet’s political ramifications. ‘What if the liberating potential of the Internet also contains the seeds of depoliticization and thus dedemocratization?’ he asks. The Net delusion of his title is just that. Contrary to the ‘cyberutopians,’ as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom.”
New York Times, February 6, 2011 “Among cyber-intellectuals in America, a fascinating debate has broken out about whether social media can do as much harm as good in totalitarian states like Egypt. In his fiercely argued new book, “The Net Delusion,” Evgeny Morozov…challenges the conventional wisdom of what he calls “cyber-utopianism.” Among other mischievous facts, he reports that there were only 19,235 registered Twitter accounts in Iran (0.027 percent of the population) on the eve of what many American pundits rebranded its “Twitter Revolution.” More damning, Morozov also demonstrates how the digital tools so useful to citizens in a free society can be co-opted by tech-savvy dictators, police states and garden-variety autocrats to spread propaganda and to track (and arrest) conveniently networked dissidents….This provocative debate isn’t even being acknowledged in most American coverage of the Internet’s role in the current uprisings.”
Wall Street JournalOne of Michael Gazzaniga’s best books of the year. “In ‘The Net Delusion,’ Evgeny Morozov, in a sassy and enlightening way, takes on the idea that the Internet and social media are going to march the world's people to democracy and peace.”