How Might The Internet Negatively Affect The Democratization Of Authoritarian Regimes?

2307 words - 9 pages

IntroductionHow might the Internet negatively affect the democratization of authoritarian regimes?There is a widespread belief that the Internet is a driving force for democratization and such benefits are frequently echoed in the media; however, the Internet has proved to be much less of a force for democratization than previously expected (MacKinnon,31).The Internet has long been touted as a medium that would lead to a rapid democratization of authoritarian regimes around the world through the unencumbered access to information and communication. The perception is that regimes can be transformed and "free and open interactions will lead to the democratization of societies … [and act] as a catalyst for [the] civil democratic processes of citizen consultation and participation" (Shirazi, 2).Nevertheless, the truth is that the Internet will not bring about democracy in these countries. It is a tool used in a specific social context, but it is not a cause of political change. And, while authoritarian governments have supported the use of the Internet for limited economic reasons, they have also increased censorship and regulation to ensure it does not become a threat to the status quo (MacKinnon, 32).This paper focuses on the negative uses of Internet by authoritarian regimes by outlining: how the emergence of the Internet has been framed; the control of the Internet; the true reasons for Internet adoption; the interests served; and the negative effects it has had on democratic reform.The Emergence of the InternetLong affirmed as a promoter of global democracy, the Internet has been framed as a "positive force in the development of democratic systems and ideals… [that has allowed] previously oppressed minorities to voice their opinions and retrieve information without fear of persecution" (Best, 4).The Internet is portrayed as the perfect medium for the fundamental ideals of democracy; specifically, we are told to believe that the Internet will "facilitate the expression of liberal values, such as individualism and freedom of speech, either through anonymity or access" (Soraker, 41).This led to perception that the Internet would revolutionize government and spread democracy. The Internet was to be a dominant force of global democratization, and authoritarian regimes were to find it difficult to survive in this context.Unfortunately, the Internet has neither enabled anonymity nor access. Undemocratic regimes have implemented measures to block information and trace the identities of Internet users. Political activists have been imprisoned for their online publications in a multitude of countries, including China, Vietnam, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, and Iran ("Dictatorships get to grips").Authoritarian regimes, eager to reap the economic rewards of the Internet, have enabled access to the ICT, but have significantly altered the framework of the Internet, away from the original intentions that it was created to serve.Control of the InternetIn...

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