The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (Paperback)
Updated with a new Afterword
The revolution will be Twittered declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran. But as journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov argues in The Net Delusion, the Internet is a tool that both revolutionaries and authoritarian governments can use. For all of the talk in the West about the power of the Internet to democratize societies, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. Social media sites have been used there to entrench dictators and threaten dissidents, making it harder not easier to promote democracy.
Marshalling a compelling set of case studies, The Net Delusion shows why the cyber-utopian stance that the Internet is inherently liberating is wrong, and how ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of Internet freedom are misguided and, on occasion, harmful.
About the Author
Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov) is the author of To Save Everything Click Here. He is a senior editor to The New Republic. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, the London Review of Books, and many other publications. His monthly column comes out in Slate, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), El Pais (Spain), Corriere della Sera (Italy), and several other newspapers. He was born in Belarus.
Winner of the 2012 Goldsmith Book Prize A New York Times Notable Book of 2011 Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
“Evgeny Morozov is wonderfully knowledgeable about the Internet—he seems to have studied every use of it, or every political use, in every country in the world (and to have read all the posts). And he is wonderfully sophisticated and tough-minded about politics. This is a rare combination, and it makes for a powerful argument against the latest versions of technological romanticism. His book should be required reading for every political activist who hopes to change the world on the Internet.” Thomas P.M. Barnett, author, The Pentagon’s New Map, and senior managing director, Enterra Solutions LLC“Evgeny Morozov has produced a rich survey of recent history that reminds us that everybody wants connectivity but also varying degrees of control over content, and that connectivity on its own is a very poor predictor of political pluralism…. By doing so, he’s gored any number of sacred cows, but he’s likewise given us a far more realistic sense of what’s possible in cyberspace—both good and bad—in the years ahead. Morozov excels at this sort of counter-intuitive analysis, and he instantly recasts a number of foreign policy debates with this timely book.” Stephen M. Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University
“Net Delusion is a brilliant book and a great read. Politicians and pundits have hailed the Internet as a revolutionary force that will empower the masses and consign authoritarian governments to the ash-heap of history, but Morozov explains why such naïve hopes are sadly misplaced. With a keen eye for detail and a probing, skeptical intelligence, he shows that the Web is as likely to distract as to empower, and that both dictators and dissidents can exploit its novel features. If you thought that Facebook, Twitter, and the World Wide Web would trigger a new wave of democratic transformations, read this book and think again.”
Malcolm Gladwell“Evgeny Morozov offers a rare note of wisdom and common sense, on an issue overwhelmed by digital utopians'” Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2010
“In his debut, Foreign Policy contributing editor Morozov pulls the Internet into sharp focus, exposing the limits of its inner logic, its reckless misuse and the dangerous myopia of its champions. A serious consideration of the online world that sparkles with charm and wit.” The Economist, January 7, 2011
“the resulting book is not just unfailingly readable: it is also a provocative, enlightening and welcome riposte to the cyber-utopian worldview.” New Statesman, January 7, 2011
“This book is a passionate and heavily researched account of the case against the cyber-utopians.” The Independent, January, 2011
Internet freedom", in short, is a valiant sword with a number of blades, existing in several dimensions simultaneously. As we go down the rabbit-hole of WikiLeaks, Morozov's humane and rational lantern will help us land without breaking our legs.” Huntington News, January 7, 2011
Morozov's ‘The Net Delusion’ should be read by cockeyed optimists and pessimists alike. It's as important today as McLuhan's books ("The Gutenberg Galaxy," "Understanding Media," "The Medium is the Massage," etc.) were in the 1950s through the 1970s.” New York Times, January, 23 2011
“The Net Delusion, argues that Westerners get carried away by the potential of the Internet to democratize societies, failing to appreciate that dictators can also use the Web to buttress their regimes. A fair point.” Boston Globe, February 9, 2011
“Morozov has produced an invaluable book. Copies should be smuggled to every would-be Twitter revolutionary, and to their clueless groupies in the Western democracies.” New York Times Book Review, February 6, 2011
“As Evgeny Morozov demonstrates in ‘The Net Delusion,’ his brilliant and courageous book, the Internet’s contradictions and confusions are just becoming visible through the fading mist of Internet euphoria. Morozov is interested in the internet’s political ramifications. ‘What if the liberating potential of the Internet also contains the seeds of depoliticization and thus dedemocratization?’ he asks. The Net delusion of his title is just that. Contrary to the ‘cyberutopians,’ as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom.”
New York Times, February 6, 2011 “Among cyber-intellectuals in America, a fascinating debate has broken out about whether social media can do as much harm as good in totalitarian states like Egypt. In his fiercely argued new book, “The Net Delusion,” Evgeny Morozov…challenges the conventional wisdom of what he calls “cyber-utopianism.” Among other mischievous facts, he reports that there were only 19,235 registered Twitter accounts in Iran (0.027 percent of the population) on the eve of what many American pundits rebranded its “Twitter Revolution.” More damning, Morozov also demonstrates how the digital tools so useful to citizens in a free society can be co-opted by tech-savvy dictators, police states and garden-variety autocrats to spread propaganda and to track (and arrest) conveniently networked dissidents….This provocative debate isn’t even being acknowledged in most American coverage of the Internet’s role in the current uprisings.”