Techno-utopia Vs. Digital Dictatorship

Nobody owns the Internet.

The Internet is Utopian.

The Internet will give us freedom.

You are free to do whatever you want online in the privacy of your home.

These are all myths Internet users have come to believe, and these are all myths that some of us forget are false.

“Techno-utopianism” is the belief that the advances in modern technology will bring about change in society and eventually create a ‘utopia’. However, there have always been two opposing sides to the implications of new technology. Many also believe that technology, specifically the Internet, will cause a dictatorship in countries or allow people to create propaganda through the use of social networks, like Twitter or Facebook. So, is Internet a “techno-utopia”, or a “digital dictatorship”?

Evgeny Morozov, writer, researcher and expert on social implications of technology, discusses his point of view on the consequences of using the Internet in a TED conference. Morozov says that people think that the Internet will eventually bring about a democracy when Internet devices result to connectivity. However, a term Morozov coined, ‘ipod liberalism’, explains why this is wrong. The term describes that if a person in China, or anywhere around the world, owns an ipod, this would not bring about change or democracy in their country. Simply having a technologically advanced device and/or a connection to the internet will not necessary bring about positive change. (Arab Spring could be an example to disagree with this point).

“Spinternet”, another term coined by Morozov, explains how the governments, like the Russian or Chinese government, uses the Internet for propaganda purposes by hiring bloggers  to mislead people and enforce a certain message that is in favor of the government.

When it comes to implications of the Internet, I am neutral in this argument because I have only witnessed examples (Arab Spring) that encourages the idea of utopia online. I get Morozov’s point, but I don’t see any evidence that proves it. Has the Internet brought about a dictatorship that I don’t know about? Although governments do use the Internet for propaganda purposes, block websites and social networks, and arrest people for things they have blogged or tweeted, I would not go as far to say that the Internet has brought about a “digital dictatorship”. The Internet can save lives, but the Internet could also be used as a weapon…so I guess it’s a win-win?

 

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