Latest Scholarship

September 23, 2011

More Jasmine Revolutions? Or Better Big Brothers?

Should dictators fear, or welcome, the Internet?  I grapple with this question in a new essay, Jasmine Revolutions, forthcoming in the Cornell Law Review.  The draft of the paper is available here.

Here is the abstract for the paper:

Will the Internet help topple tyrants, or will it help further cement their control? Prominent skeptics challenge the notion that the Internet will help rid the world of dictators. They suggest that the Internet will simply serve as a new opiate of the masses, or worse, will assist autocrats in manipulating popular opinion. I defend the liberalizing promise of cyberspace. Where others have set out the value of the Internet to dissidents, I answer the main critiques of that position - that Internet activism is futile, that the Internet is simply the new opiate of the masses, and that autocrats will benefit more from the Internet than dissidents. I argue that dictators have revealed their own appraisals of the Internet: when threatened, they shut it down. Tyrants today fear the Internet more than they benefit from it. This summer’s events again confirmed this truth: On the day when the rebels marched into Tripoli, they restored Libya to the Internet.