Rebecca MacKinnon and Evgeny Morozov : Firewalls to Freedom

From the

Whenever manipulation efforts fail, cyber-attacks offer yet another powerful tool to crack down on dissent without triggering public accusations of formal censorship. This is what happened to a Georgian (known by the screen name cyxymu) who used his blog on LiveJournal to criticize how both governments handled last summer’s war. A series of cyber-attacks followed, and was so devastating that the entire service – with its millions of other blogs – crashed, forcing LiveJournal administrators to delete his account temporarily.

As contemporary authoritarian regimes learn how to manage and engineer information flows, we must understand that promoting and protecting free speech in places like China and Russia is not a simple matter of “tearing down the wall.” Given these governments’ complex strategies for regulating what their citizens do online – ranging from establishing effective control of private media and telecoms businesses to allowing people to blow off steam without going too far – we should be more realistic about the true extent of the Internet’s transformational potential.

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