Home People LibTech: Evgeny Morozov on Internet Freedom

Disclaimer: I have done my best to transcribe the comments of these speakers at the conference on Liberation Technology in Authoritarian Regimes, and I apologize for any errors.

Blogger Evgeny Morozov addresses the importance of socio-political as well as technological controls on Internet freedom. As an example, he identifies a recent law in Thailand that makes the creations of social media platforms legally responsible for user generated content, making self-censorship likely. He says that we don’t know how to address the socio-political context. As anti-censorship tools improve, control will not evaporate, they will simply find non-technological ways to control speech. By creating purely technological tools to address technological challenges to Internet freedom, we are missing socio-political avenues of control.

On the technological side, we notes that DDoS attacks are more damaging than censorship and blocking. In the former case, the onus is on the content producer to provide access, in the latter case the onus is on the audience. The real costs of DDoS as a means of oppressing dissent are more costly to the content producer, not only financial, but also psychological. We don’t have the means of addressing this on an international level.

Another method of control is attacking the legitimacy and communication capacity of online communities of opposition. This results in a limitation of their ability to disseminate information, mobilize, mobilize and grow. A variety of techniques, from paid trolls to hacked DDoS attack can be used to attack these communities.

Authoritarian governments are also building local alternatives to Internet services. One of the most disturbing examples is a Turkish effort to create their own national search engine and provide each citizen from a national government email. Iran and Russia is making similar efforts. It is unclear how these efforts are connected. Morozov predicts that this will be detrimental to freedom of expression and that these services may become industries of national importance, increasing surveillance and control.

A lot depends on whether the Internet Freedom agenda or the Internet Control agenda succeeds in the US, where the State Department supports the former and the Department of Commerce and Defense support the latter.

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