Directly taking on cyber-utopians who see the Internet as a panacea for ending warfare and bringing people together, Morozov in Chapter 9 brings up numerous instances in which the Internet is used to heighten nationalism, enable revisionist history and mythmaking, and inflame ethnic tensions. Additionally, the Internet has proved a boon for the trade in extinct species and human organs (not to mention child pornography). And non-state actors use various online tools to target and harass minorities or dissenters via geolocation and publishing person information.
Flatly put, new technologies can be and are used for bad. Al Qaeda has found the Internet to be an effective recruiting and mobilization tool. Mexican gangs use videos to intimidate communities and ferreting out potential kidnapping victims. Criminal gangs in the U.S. have used texting and social media to create what the media has dubbed “flash mobs” of beatings and theft. Comment sections on YouTube often descend into racial epithet fests.
The Internet can have the effect of undermining the ability of states to enforce justice and the rule of law which Morozov posits can lead to anarchy. The speed of information demands can lead to emotion trumping reason in the formulation and execution of policy and diplomacy, and debate is often dumbed down to 140 characters or whoever can get their opinion out first and to the most people.
Questions for discussion:
1) Do you think the Internet is a net positive or negative force in bringing people together? Are people more often using the Internet to expose themselves to contrary evidence and question their beliefs … or to cement their positions by only seeking out sites that confirm their biases?
2) Morozov writes that the Internet can allow minority communities to reinforce and invigorate their cultures, and diasporas to stay connected (and thus keep cultures intact) better than ever. But they can also use it to empower militancy, fundamentalism, and separatism that creates new minority communities. Are such negative consequences inevitable, or is there a more thoughtful way to approach these questions?
3) A New Yorker cartoon once cleverly pointed out that online, “nobody knows you’re a dog.” To some, this is highly problematic, as it leads to instances of online bullying, degraded discourse, racism, and extreme polarization. To counter this, some experts have called for enforcing a “real name policy” for social networks, comments sections, etc. Is this a better way to proceed? What are the merits and downsides of such policies?
Chapter 1 – The Google Doctrine
Chapter 2 – Texting Like It’s 1989
Chapter 3 – Orwell’s Favorite Lolcat
Chapter 4 – Censors and Sensibilities
Chapter 5 – Hugo Chavez Would Like to Welcome You to the Spinternet
Chapter 6 – Why the KGB Wants You to Join Facebook
Chapter 7 – Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism
Chapter 8 – Open Networks, Narrow Minds
Chapter 9 – Internet Freedoms and Their Consequences
Chapter 10 – Making History (More Than a Browser Menu)
Chapter 11 – The Wicked Fix