Internet Freedom and Political Space

Internet Freedom and Political Space

Olesya Tkacheva
Lowell H. Schwartz
Martin C. Libicki
Julie E. Taylor
Jeffrey Martini
Caroline Baxter
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Internet Freedom and Political Space
    Book Description:

    The Internet is a new battleground between governments that censor online content and those who advocate freedom for all to browse, post, and share information online. This report examines how Internet freedom may transform state-society relations in nondemocratic regimes, using case studies of China, Egypt, Russia, and Syria, and also draws parallels between Internet freedom and Radio Free Europe programs during the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8066-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Summary
    (pp. xi-xx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: The Autocratic Challenge and Internet Freedom
    (pp. 1-16)

    The struggle between freedom and autocracy has been going on for hundreds of years and shows no sign of resolution. Since the 1970s, what has been called the third wave of democratization has transformed a number of Asian, African, European, and Western Hemisphere societies from authoritarian to more democratic forms of government. This trend slowed over the past decade (and even reversed in some regions), even as popular uprisings challenged—and in several cases ousted—long-established authoritarian regimes in Arab world.¹ During 2011, for instance, a wide range of countries—including Russia, China, Iran, Ukraine, and Ethiopia—all saw significant...

  9. CHAPTER TWO The Internet and Political Process in Different Regimes
    (pp. 17-42)

    Social media and the Internet are ubiquitous. A billion people are already on Facebook; every day a half million more come onboard. YouTube has 490 million unique users who visit the site every month and view 92 billion pages each month. Every minute, 3,000 images are uploaded to Flickr. Twitter handles 1.6 billion queries per day, and 11 new accounts are created per second. When new social media technologies appear, they attract millions of users in a blink of an eye. It took Google+ less than three weeks to attract 10 million users.¹ The majority of Internet users, however, reside...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Cyberactivists, Social Media, and the Anti-Mubarak Protests in Egypt
    (pp. 43-72)

    A mass uprising in Egypt started on January 25, 2011, and in just 18 days brought an end to the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The media quickly dubbed the uprising “the Facebook Revolution,” after the social media website on which many of the young activists met and organized their activities.¹ Many analysts argued that the Internet had provided an essential space for activists to circumvent state repression, become informed about the regime’s crimes, and build a community of like-minded individuals who, by coming together, gained the confidence needed to take risks collectively that they had been unwilling to...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Internet Freedom and Political Change in Syria
    (pp. 73-92)

    In March 2011, the wave of unrest that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt reached Syria. At the outset, the demonstrations were confined to Daraa, a secondary city on the Jordanian border, but the unrest quickly spread to the central and western regions of Syria and soon a nationwide revolt was in swing. The initial uprising relied on demonstrations and strikes, although after increasingly violent responses from the Assad regime’s notorious state security forces, street politics morphed into an armed uprising led by defectors from the Syrian military. This chapter focuses on one particular aspect of the Syrian uprising:...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE The Internet in China: Threatened Tool of Expression and Mobilization
    (pp. 93-118)

    On August 2011, BBC News pointed out that the Internet and microblogs “have not changed the fundamental nature of government in China, but they are forcing officials to change the way they operate.”¹ About a year later, BBC News noted that “the breadth and the nature of public debate in China has been drastically changed by the use of social media, but is it really just a poor replacement for real social change?”² Both statements capture the uncertainty regarding the profundity of changes brought about by the Internet. Has the Internet expanded the political space in China? If so, in...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Fighting Electoral Fraud in the 2011 Russian Election with Internet and Social Media
    (pp. 119-148)

    Chapters Three through Five discussed when and how the Internet can transform state-society relations by expanding opportunities to post, browse, and share information online for netizens, i.e., those Internet users who actively use this medium for self-expression and networking. This chapter introduces new actors, cyberactivists, and examines their role in expanding political space. Cyberactivists are high-profile individuals or organizations who turn to the Internet to advance a specific cause, and their numbers are extremely small. To understand how they can expand political space, it is important to examine the factors enabling them to reach out to those citizens whose support...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Information Freedom During the Cold War: The Impact of Western Radio Broadcasts
    (pp. 149-184)

    Although the Internet is relatively new, the challenge explored in our contemporary case studies of expanding the political space of countries ruled by authoritarian governments is not. Many of the subchallenges facing Internet freedom programs are also historic: For instance, is it better for outside influences to concentrate on committed individuals, in the hopes that the conversation will resonate in the closed country, or to take a broader approach, at the risk of diluting the effect? Thus, it is extremely useful to investigate and draw lessons from previous U.S. information efforts that focused on expanding political space within authoritarian countries....

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT Internet Freedom: Measure and Countermeasure
    (pp. 185-202)

    Politics is the struggle over power, and the expansion of political space is therefore about altering the rules for that struggle.¹ Regimes that have power, want to keep power, and do not respect the norms of a liberal democracy tend to limit the political space of its citizens. They also want the freedom to carry out policies they deem worthwhile without having to work under the constraints that an aroused citizenry would place on freedom of action.

    Accordingly, we started thinking about measure and countermeasure—not with the desire for greater political space on the part of the population, but...

  16. CHAPTER NINE Key Findings and Policy Implications for Internet Freedom Programsʹ Design
    (pp. 203-222)

    The rapid expansion of Internet use in nondemocratic states provides a wealth of new opportunities for expanding political space. The basic technology of the web is friendly toward democratic values. The Internet is built around the concepts of openness, speed, and universal compatibility, which are antithetical to regimes that seek to manage and control political discourse. When authoritarian regimes attempt to control Internet access and the uses to which netizens put it, they must struggle against the underlying nature of the Internet itself. For Internet freedom programs, the opposite is true. They are merely trying to reinforce the basic characteristics...

  17. APPENDIX Electoral Fraud Variable and Summary Statistics for the Russia Case Study
    (pp. 223-230)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-261)