Starting in the mid-1990s, so-called ‘cyber-utopians’ began promoting the internet as the ultimate tool for activism, democratic change and human empowerment, certain that a true world wide web would inevitably lead to the spread of liberal ideals and the downfall of oppressive regimes. As of today, many still view see the internet, and social media in particular, as the worst enemy of despots and tyrants worldwide. But 20 years after the rise of the net, is there good evidence that this is truly the case?
In «The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?» the Belarusian-born journalist and commentator Evgeny Morozov argues that, when it comes to oppression, the web is a far more complex system than cyber-utopians make it out to be, offering a tool to both activists and totalitarian governments rather than having an inherent bias towards freedom. In audio excerpted from an RSA lecture given during the 2009 Iranian election protests, Morozov argues that by viewing the internet as a tool for freedom, we confuse the ‘intended uses of technology with the actual uses’.