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The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World [Paperback]

Evgeny Morozov
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Jan 2011

Does free information mean free people?

At the start of the twenty-first century we were promised that the internet would liberate the world. We could come together as never before, and from Iran's 'twitter revolution' to Facebook 'activism', technological innovation

would spread democracy to oppressed peoples everywhere.

We couldn't have been more wrong. In The Net Delusion Evgeny Morozov destroys this myth, arguing that 'internet freedom' is an illusion, and that technology has failed to help protect people's rights. Not only that - in many cases the internet is actually helping authoritarian regimes. From China to Russia to Iran, oppressive governments are using cyberspace to stifle dissent: planting clandestine propaganda, employing sophisticated digital censorship and

using online surveillance. We are all being manipulated in more subtle ways too - becoming pacified by the net, instead of truly engaging.

This book is a wake-up call. It shows us how our misplaced faith in cyber-utopia means the West risks missing the real challenges. Morozov argues that we must look at other ways of promoting democracy abroad, and forces us - policymakers and citizens alike - to recognize that all our freedoms are at stake.

Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (6 Jan 2011)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846143535
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143533
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Evgeny Morozov offers a rare note of wisdom and common sense, on an issue overwhelmed by digital utopians (Malcolm Gladwell )

Gleefully iconoclastic ... not just unfailingly readable: it is also a provocative, enlightening and welcome riposte to the cyber-utopian worldview. (The Economist )

A delight ... his demolition job on the embarrassments of "internet freedom" is comprehensive ... as we go down the rabbit-hole of WikiLeaks, Morozov's humane and rational lantern will help us land without breaking our legs. (Pat Kane The Independent )

A passionate and heavily researched account of the case against the cyber-utopians ... only by becoming "cyber-realists" can we hope to make humane and effective policy. (Bryan Appleyard New Statesman )

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. (Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton )

The Net Delusion is considerably more than an assault on political rhetoric ... a war against complacency. (Tom Chatfield Observer )

Required reading for all ... a compelling primer and rebuff to the "cyber utopians" ... trenchant and persuasive. (John Kampfner Sunday Times )

Lively and combative ... dauntingly well-informed ... injects a welcome dose of common sense into an issue that has been absurdly lacking in it. (John Preston Sunday Telegraph )

Piercing...convincing...timely. (Ben Hammersley Financial Times )

[M]ore than rewards a respectful reading, not only for the author's impressive knowledge of the internet toolbox...but because of his ability to relate such technological gadgetry to the increasing challenges that are being posed to entrenched authoritarianism (James M Murphy Times Literary Supplement )

Selected by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2011 (New York Times )

About the Author

Evgeny Morozov is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy and runs the magazine's influential and widely-quoted 'Net Effect' blog about the Internet's impact on global politics ( Morozov is currently a Yahoo! fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Evgeny Morozov's `The Net Delusion' is an informative and wide-ranging essay on the growth and increasing power of the internet as an agency of global change, with some less than optimistic conclusions. Taking as a start-point the way in which political-interest websites and blogs have been created by dissidents in an attempt to organise and focus opposition to less democratic regimes such as those in China, Iran and elsewhere, he broadens out his thesis to examine ways in which entrenched political interests have started to use the most successful spin-offs of the new technologies (facebook, twitter) to identify, keep track of and arrest dissenters; and that these developments of internet technologies now enable the exercise of a degree of social control far greater than was previously possible.

The author knows his subject, and utilises plentiful and relevant citations from the enormous academic bibliography listed in the index to support his argument. It is recognised that people the world over seek entertainment and frivolity from the net far more often than they engage in political or philosophical discourse; extrapolating from this data Morozov makes a convincing case that the new technologies may therefore be exploited as a more insidious agency of social control and management. He compares the 1948 totalitarian vision of Orwell's Stalinist surveillance society in `1984' with Huxley's earlier but far more seductive and ultimately more accurate vision of the future in `Brave New World' where the status quo is maintained by giving people what they want and keeping them happy on the farm.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Jezza
Morozov is great on puncturing the absurd technological determinism and misplaced optimism of what he calls cyber-utopians, and he makes some important distinctions between those who advocated 'freedom for the internet' and 'freedom via the internet'.

But he seems to take it for granted that we know who the 'baddies' are and what is wrong with them - so much so that he doesn't need to define what he means by either democratic or authoritarian regimes. The book is a critique of the idea that internet tools like Facebook and Twitter are inherently pro-democratic...yet there is no discussion as to what is meant by democracy. Is Putin's Russia a democracy? Well, they have elections, don't they? And if it isn't, what exactly makes Berlusconi's Italy different? Or even Britain, with its flawed electoral system and ludicrous campaign finance rules? Can Twitter help to bring freedom to Italy, or to Britain?

This is very much a contribution to a discussion within the Washington Beltway, albeit from someone who is pretty much an outsider. There doesn't seem to be any understanding that there might be a difference on goals, not just on means, or that someone who considers themselves a democrat would pick say Hugo Chavez (who seems to be lumped in with the authoritarians) over Berlusconi or Blair.

Worth reading for the discussions about technology and technological determinism, but take the politics with a dash of salt.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All The World Loves A Lolcat 13 Jan 2011
By Diziet TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Growing up in Belarus and then living in the US, Mr Morozov has had opportunities to view the Internet from 'both sides'. He has seen at first hand both authoritarian attempts at controlling the spread of the Internet and libertarian attempts at maintaining the Internet's growth throughout the world.

This experience has allowed him to develop some useful views. He contrasts attitudes to the Internet basically between 'cyber-utopians' and 'cyber-cons'. The former he defines as those who have:

'...a quasi-religious belief in the power of the Internet to do supernatural things, from eradicating illiteracy in Africa to organizing all of the world's information...Opening up closed societies and flushing them with democracy juice until they shed off their authoritarian skin is just one of the expectations placed on the Internet these days.' (P19)

On the other hand, there are the 'cyber-cons' (an on-line version of neo-conservatives) who still view the world from an essentially Cold War perspective. Thus, they are bound by cold-war metaphors. But, as he points out:

'Breaching a powerful firewall is in no way similar to the breaching of the Berlin Wall or the lifting of passport controls at Checkpoint Charlie...[T]he cyber-wall metaphor falsely suggests that once digital barriers are removed, new and completely different barriers won't spring up in their place' (P44-45)

Between these two extremes, which overlap and inform each other, he analyses the effects of Twitter, Facebook, mobile telephony and the growing belief that all dissidents have to do is set up a Facebook page and the revolution will miraculously occur.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am a web developer. Last year, I was tasked with looking at using Facebook in advertising. I worked out a way that allows any online advert to access the user's Facebook profile as if the user had logged into their account themselves. I used the Facebook API (a set of routines that lets any external web code access Facebook) to surreptitiously login. The only mistake the user has to make to allow me in is to have the `remember me' button on their login screen checked (and which regular Facebook user doesn't?). Once my ad is in your account (about 3-5 seconds on a good broadband connection), I can then access and retransmit all your data, including (depending on what you have on your profile) your name, address, phone numbers, friends, and your uploaded pictures. It isn't even difficult to work out; anyone with a good knowledge of JavaScript (or AS3) and a bit of HTML iframe magic can work it out in a couple of hours.

Why is this allowed to happen? Because Facebook trusts everyone; it assumes I am not evil by default. So does Wikipedia and Twitter. In fact, any social/collaborative web application has to trust me because that is what `social' means in web programming terms.

And that chimes totally with the view of this book; the web is apolitical and trusting, and although that makes it a useful tool to help democracy to take root in authoritarian states, it also makes it very easy for that authoritarian state to reduce personal freedom and spread its own propaganda in return.

If the internet ceased to exist, it would be Al-Qaida that would be worse off. The US Army loses an unsecure communications channel they don't use for frontline operations (and WikiLeaks becomes a thing of the past).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars More of an Academic Study
I was looking forward to reading this book, sold as a study into the "evils" of the internet but after about 50 pages I had to stop as I was absolutely bored out of my brain! Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. George Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuts through the hype
Morozov gives an excellent and thoughtful critique of much of the mainstream thinking around the internet and it's relationship to societal change. Read more
Published 11 months ago by E Lanscombe
5.0 out of 5 stars ntellectual Recycling and Internet-Centrism, a tale of Cyber-Utopia...
Dunks a much needed, well-reasoned, and well-researched bucket of cold-water over "Internet-centrists" and "cyber-utopians" (cyber-utopianism is a "naÔve belief in the emancipatory... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Abhinav Agarwal
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, well-argued.
Teenagers have grown up with the internet and all the ways we access it, including the now almost ubiquitous smartphones. Read more
Published on 27 May 2012 by David B
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
The basic premise is that the Internet does not on it's own bring democracy and that current claims are overblown. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by R. Oliver
3.0 out of 5 stars D'oh! Talk about unfortunate timing!
A cogent and interestingly argued book from someone who knows what he's talking about and who is well aware of the potentially greater benefits of the internet to dictatorships and... Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by Chintan Nanavati
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
From the moment I picked up the book I loved turning each page.. This would be a good holiday read..
Published on 15 Mar 2012 by It's all about me
1.0 out of 5 stars No net gain
Oh goody, I thought, a blistering polemic on the evils of the internet; sounds like something Orwell might have dashed off for some left-wing mag. If only. Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2012 by Aja
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot of Information and a very long read
This took me months to finish, and even then I didn't quite 'get' the point of the book.

I suppose if I'd grown-up with the Internet as being my saving grace and 'god' I... Read more
Published on 20 Jan 2012 by Miss M. L. English
5.0 out of 5 stars The Net Delusion
Social studies scholar Evgeny Morozov may occasionally be cranky and stylistically conflicted, but his original arguments provide refreshing insights. Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2011 by Rolf Dobelli
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