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The Dark Side of Internet Freedom


1. Internet—Political aspects. 2. Internet—Censorship. 

3. Computers—Access control. 4. Freedom of information.

“ Evgeny Morozov offers a rare note of wisdom
and common sense, on an issue overwhelmed
by digital utopians.” —MALCOLM GLADWELL
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Book Details
 431 p
 File Size 
 2,028 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 978-1-58648-874-1 (alk. paper) 
 2011 by Evgeny Morozov 

About the Author
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.
He has appeared on CNN, CBS, SkyNews, CBC, Al Jazeera International,
France 24, Reuters TV, NPR, BBC Radio 4, and BBC World Service.

For anyone who wants to see democracy prevail in the most hostile and
unlikely environments, the first decade of the new millennium was
marked by a sense of bitter disappointment, if not utter disillusionment.
The seemingly inexorable march of freedom that began in the late
1980s has not only come to a halt but may have reversed its course.
Expressions like “freedom recession” have begun to break out of the
think-tank circuit and enter the public conversation. In a state of quiet
desperation, a growing number of Western policymakers began to concede
that the Washington Consensus—that set of dubious policies that
once promised a neoliberal paradise at deep discounts—has been superseded
by the Beijing Consensus, which boasts of delivering quickand-
dirty prosperity without having to bother with those pesky
institutions of democracy.
The West has been slow to discover that the fight for democracy
wasn’t won back in 1989. For two decades it has been resting on its laurels,
expecting that Starbucks, MTV, and Google will do the rest just
fine. Such a laissez-faire approach to democratization has proved rather
toothless against resurgent authoritarianism, which has masterfully
adapted to this new, highly globalized world. Today’s authoritarianism
is of the hedonism- and consumerism-friendly variety, with Steve Jobs
and Ashton Kutcher commanding far more respect than Mao or Che
Guevara. No wonder the West appears at a loss. While the Soviets could
be liberated by waving the magic wand of blue jeans, exquisite coffee
machines, and cheap bubble gum, one can’t pull the same trick on
China. After all, this is where all those Western goods come from.
Many of the signs that promised further democratization just a few
years ago never quite materialized. The so-called color revolutions that
swept the former Soviet Union in the last decade produced rather ambiguous
results. Ironically, it’s the most authoritarian of the former Soviet
republics—Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan—that found those
revolutions most useful, having discovered and patched their own vulnerabilities.
My own birthplace, Belarus, once singled out by Condoleezza
Rice as the last outpost of tyranny in Europe, is perhaps the
shrewdest of the lot; it continues its slide into a weird form of authoritarianism,
where the glorification of the Soviet past by its despotic
ruler is fused with a growing appreciation of fast cars, expensive holidays,
and exotic cocktails by its largely carefree populace.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were started, if anything,
to spread the gospel of freedom and democracy, have lost much of their
initial emancipatory potential as well, further blurring the line between
“regime change” and “democracy promotion.” Coupled with Washington’s
unnecessary abuses of human rights and rather frivolous interpretations
of international law, these two wars gave democracy promotion
such a bad name that anyone eager to defend it is considered a Dick
Cheney acolyte, an insane idealist, or both.
It is thus easy to forget, if only for therapeutic purposes, that the
West still has an obligation to stand up for democratic values, speak up
about violations of human rights, and reprimand those who abuse their
office and their citizens. Luckily, by the twenty-first century the case
for promoting democracy no longer needs to be made; even the hardest
skeptics agree that a world where Russia, China, and Iran adhere to
democratic norms is a safer world.
That said, there is still very little agreement on the kind of methods
and policies the West needs to pursue to be most effective in promoting
democracy. As the last few decades have so aptly illustrated, good intentions
are hardly enough. Even the most noble attempts may easily
backfire, entrenching authoritarianism as a result. The images of hor-

Table of Contents

Introduction, ix
1 The Google Doctrine 1
2 Texting Like It’s 1989 33
3 Orwell’s Favorite Lolcat 57
4 Censors and Sensibilities 85
5 Hugo Chavez Would Like to Welcome
You to the Spinternet 113
6 Why the KGB Wants You to Join Facebook 143
7 Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism 179
8 Open Networks, Narrow Minds: Cultural
Contradictions of Internet Freedom 205
9 Internet Freedoms and Their
Consequences 245
10 Making History (More Than a
Browser Menu) 275
11 The Wicked Fix 301
Acknowledgments, 321
Bibliography, 325
Index, 395
About the Author, 409


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