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The dark side of the internet - may the (secret police) force be with you,
This review is from: The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World (Paperback)
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I think the most worrying aspect of this book is that it needed to be written at all. Over a course of some 320 pages, in "The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World" Evgeny Morozov reviews all of the bad ways in which the internet (and most particularly social networking and blogging on it) can be used to counter and contain the spread of democracy and personal freedoms while we happily delude ourselves that it is being used to achieve the exact opposite.
Because the internet goes largely unpoliced, at least in the Western world, we tend to regard it as a playground in which we are all free to say and do very much as we wish. It is a forum devoid of censorship and authoritarian intervention. For some bizarre reason, we then equate this "freedom" with democracy. What is more, we assume it to be a good thing; a "liberating" thing. We forget, however, that it is only those of us who already live in free and democratic societies who are at liberty to do this; our freedom does not stem from our use of the internet but rather our freedom to use the internet more or less as we choose and without harmful consequence (to ourselves) stems from the democratic society in which we live. And while access to the internet may give the illusion of freedom to those living in less democratic societies, in reality such access (or at least carelessly free or thoughtless use of it) may well play into the hands of the leaders of authoritarian regimes, providing them with an extremely powerful tool for the suppression of democratic progress, as well as the policing of their own oppressive states.
The underlying message of this book is undoubtedly correct; the fact that the western democratic world does nothing to limit or control the use of the internet makes it a perfect tool for bending to the use of anyone who might benefit from access to an almost limitless outpouring of information about people's thoughts and actions, while at the same time providing them with a tool for the dissemination and promulgation of any amount of misinformation masquerading as the democratising voice of the people. Where it falls down, for me at least, is not what it says so much as the interminable length at which it says it. Many may find Evgeny Morozov's treatise thoroughly researched; it certainly does not want for full and detailed referencing of source material and can be regarded as pretty much authoritative in what it covers. As a general read, however, the leaden prose combined with a propensity to completely do to death all of the arguments presented, makes for a heavyweight read that is anything but easy work. For someone looking for an academic text, the book may be fine; anyone wanting anything lighter should look elsewhere.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Mar 2013 07:15:30 GMT
Andrew J. Crawshaw says:
Are you seriously suggesting that western democracies don't try to control and limit the internet?
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Mar 2013 10:13:50 GMT
Steve Benner says:
Some so-called democratic governments do indeed try to do this from time to time but the salient point here is the fact that Western users of the internet frequently assume that their experience of a (more or less) unpoliced internet is a) global and b) a good thing. Incidents such as the Wikileaks affair are few and far between and most Western internet users feel, at least, that they can say or do pretty much whatever they want on-line without fear of official -- or unofficial -- reprisals. The most that is likely to happen sits within the civil sphere -- while people are increasingly at risk of losing their jobs for careless internet comments and interactions, they are rarely in fear of losing their liberty, or their lives (the occasional irate ex aside) or of compromising others with the same belief-sets.
In most Western democracies, state control of the internet is much less of a problem than is Corporate and Media perversion of its content for propaganda purposes. But that's not what this book is about.
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