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Open Networks, Closed Regimes

The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule

Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas

Publication Year: 2010

As the Internet diffuses across the globe, many have come to believe that the technology poses an insurmountable threat to authoritarian rule. Grounded in the Internet's early libertarian culture and predicated on anecdotes pulled from diverse political climates, this conventional wisdom has informed the views of policymakers, business leaders, and media pundits alike. Yet few studies have sought to systematically analyze the exact ways in which Internet use may lay the basis for political change. In O pen Networks, Closed Regimes, the authors take a comprehensive look at how a broad range of societal and political actors in eight authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries employ the Internet. Based on methodical assessment of evidence from these cases —China, Cuba, Singapore, Vietnam, Burma, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt —the study contends that the Internet is not necessarily a threat to authoritarian regimes.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

...the Internet’s likely impact have become conventional wisdom. Tales of wired dissidents toppling strong-armed leaders, along with long-held beliefs about the medium’s inherently democratic nature, have lent credibility to the idea that the Internet inexorably...

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pp. xi-xii

...steadfastly encouraging our research efforts in an emerging field. Maria Carlo and Pavani Reddy deftly handled the administrative and research assistance that we needed to keep the project organized and on track. Trish Reynolds, Sherry Pettie, and...


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pp. xiii-xvi

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-12

...truth of his prediction: authoritarian regimes have fallen around the world, while the power of the microchip has risen. The connection between these two phenomena has taken on a powerful, implicit veracity, even when it has not been explicitly detailed. A link between technological advance...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 13-42

...in 1993. Domains and web sites have proliferated, while growing millions access the Internet from personal computers at home and the office. In major cities, cafeteria-sized Internet cafés host a generation accustomed more to cell phones and consumerism than to communist dogma. Chinese Internet companies seek and attain...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 43-69

...to the BBC have reported on the government’s Internet access restrictions and on those enterprising Cubans who circumvent the rules to obtain unofficial connections.2 Cuba has responded to less-thanfavorable coverage of its Internet policies with scathing editorials in the state media while also publicizing its own efforts to extend...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 70-102

...to the impression that governments in Southeast Asia are merely reacting to technology, not proactively engaging with it. Yet authoritarian countries in the region have embarked on ambitious and successful ICT–promotion programs, attracting international investment and respect for their innovations. Malaysia has set up a censorship-free...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 103-134

...newspapers and the mass media as drivers of political modernization in the region. More recent studies have looked at the challenges that videocassettes and satellite television pose to existing political dynamics.2 With the Internet taking its place alongside other technologies that frustrate the centralized control of information, there is an expectation that the medium will pose a threat to many authoritarian regimes in the Middle...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 135-154

...to bring myriad social, economic, and political changes. During the 1980s, for instance, Western analysts pondered the ways in which ICTs could be employed to break the Soviet Union’s stranglehold on information. The subsequent fall of communism at the end of the decade helped to cement enthusiasm about the technology’s promise and policy uses, particularly...


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pp. 155-178


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pp. 179-182

Works Cited

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pp. 183-200


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pp. 201-216

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About the Authors

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p. 217-217

...She has written extensively on the information revolution and political change in developing countries. Ms. Kalathil holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley...

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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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p. 218-218

...governments, business, international organizations, and civil society, focusing on the economic, political, and technological forces driving global change. Through its Carnegie Moscow Center, the Endowment helps to develop a tradition of public policy analysis in the states of the former Soviet Union and to improve relations between Russia...

E-ISBN-13: 9780870033315
E-ISBN-10: 087003331X

Page Count: 218
Publication Year: 2010