How Might the Internet Negatively Affect the Democratization of Authoritarian Regimes?

Essay by szczygielUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, February 2009

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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;...