“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran in June 2009. Yet for all the talk about the democratizing power of the Internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian governments are effectively using the Internet to suppress free speech, hone their surveillance techniques, disseminate cutting-edge propaganda, and pacify their populations with digital entertainment. Could the recent Western obsession with promoting democracy by digital means backfire?
In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder—not easier—to promote democracy. Buzzwords like “21st-century statecraft” sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the reality is that “digital diplomacy” requires just as much oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy.
Marshaling compelling evidence, Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of “Internet freedom” might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.
Internet users in the People’s Republic of China may not enjoy the same World Wide Web as the rest of the world, but their web viewing experience is edging closer to reality. The government of China is not the only administration to exercise the practice of internet censorship, but it is among the most notorious. Internet censorship in China is a complicated process that is constantly changing. This study found that it is still common for sensitive material to be unavailable in China but the severity of censorship is lessening. It was conducted in order to test the extent of control which the Chinese government has over what its internet users’ view on the internet. Through the longevity of this study and evaluations to past studies, it can be said the internet in China is becoming less controlled. The Great Firewall of China could be falling down. This could be leading to a better informed and more connected Chinese society.
In this age of an open Internet, it is easy to forget that every American information industry, beginning with the telephone, has eventually been taken captive by some ruthless monopoly or cartel. With all our media now traveling a single network, an unprecedented potential is building for centralized control over what Americans see and hear. Could history repeat itself with the next industrial consolidation? Could the Internet—the entire flow of American information—come to be ruled by one corporate leviathan in possession of “the master switch”? That is the big question of Tim Wu’s pathbreaking book.
As Wu’s sweeping history shows, each of the new media of the twentieth century—radio, telephone, television, and film—was born free and open. Each invited unrestricted use and enterprising experiment until some would-be mogul battled his way to total domination. Here are stories of an uncommon will to power, the power over information: Adolph Zukor, who took a technology once used as commonly as YouTube is today and made it the exclusive prerogative of a kingdom called Hollywood . . . NBC’s founder, David Sarnoff, who, to save his broadcast empire from disruptive visionaries, bullied one inventor (of electronic television) into alcoholic despair and another (this one of FM radio, and his boyhood friend) into suicide . . . And foremost, Theodore Vail, founder of the Bell System, the greatest information empire of all time, and a capitalist whose faith in Soviet-style central planning set the course of every information industry thereafter.
Explaining how invention begets industry and industry begets empire—a progress often blessed by government, typically with stifling consequences for free expression and technical innovation alike—Wu identifies a time-honored pattern in the maneuvers of today’s great information powers: Apple, Google, and an eerily resurgent AT&T. A battle royal looms for the Internet’s future, and with almost every aspect of our lives now dependent on that network, this is one war we dare not tune out.
Part industrial exposé, part meditation on what freedom requires in the information age, The Master Switch is a stirring illumination of a drama that has played out over decades in the shadows of our national life and now culminates with terrifying implications for our future.
A former top-level National Security Agency insider goes behind the headlines to explore America’s next great battleground: digital security. An urgent wake-up call that identifies our foes; unveils their methods; and charts the dire consequences for government, business, and individuals.
Shortly after 9/11, Joel Brenner entered the inner sanctum of American espionage, first as the inspector general of the National Security Agency, then as the head of counterintelligence for the director of national intelligence. He saw at close range the battleground on which our adversaries are now attacking us-cyberspace. We are at the mercy of a new generation of spies who operate remotely from China, the Middle East, Russia, even France, among many other places. These operatives have already shown their ability to penetrate our power plants, steal our latest submarine technology, rob our banks, and invade the Pentagon‘s secret communications systems.
Incidents like the WikiLeaks posting of secret U.S. State Department cables hint at the urgency of this problem, but they hardly reveal its extent or its danger. Our government and corporations are a “glass house,” all but transparent to our adversaries. Counterfeit computer chips have found their way into our fighter aircraft; the Chinese stole a new radar system that the navy spent billions to develop; our own soldiers used intentionally corrupted thumb drives to download classified intel from laptops in Iraq. And much more.
Dispatches from the corporate world are just as dire. In 2008, hackers lifted customer files from the Royal Bank of Scotland and used them to withdraw $9 million in half an hour from ATMs in the United States, Britain, and Canada. If that was a traditional heist, it would be counted as one of the largest in history. Worldwide, corporations lose on average $5 million worth of intellectual property apiece annually, and big companies lose many times that.
The structure and culture of the Internet favor spies over governments and corporations, and hackers over privacy, and we’ve done little to alter that balance. Brenner draws on his extraordinary background to show how to right this imbalance and bring to cyberspace the freedom, accountability, and security we expect elsewhere in our lives.
In America the Vulnerable, Brenner offers a chilling and revelatory appraisal of the new faces of war and espionage-virtual battles with dangerous implications for government, business, and all of us.
AFDD 3-12 is the US Air Force’s foundational doctrine publication for Air Force operations in, through, and from the cyberspace domain. It defines Cyberspace Superiority and speaks to US Air Force support of maintaining Cyberspace Superiority, a common military function.
“Today, we live in a globally-networked society that is increasingly dependent upon cyberspace access and security. Our ability to gain and maintain superiority in cyberspace has become essential to our ability to deliver global reach, power, and vigilance. As an integral member of the joint warfighting team, the Air Force is committed to growing, sustaining, and presenting highly skilled and well-equipped forces to joint force commanders who can deliver decisive effects in, from, and through cyberspace, while assuring our mission against an asymmetric cyber threat.
Freedom of action in the cyberspace domain enables our command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Our modern defenses, industrial base, and global commerce, as well as that of our nation’s enemies, depend on free use of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. Leverage in cyberspace affords influence and control across all other domains. This leverage increases our forces’ access, speed, reach, stealth, and precision.
Controlling the portions of cyberspace integral to our mission is a fundamental prerequisite to effective operations across the range of military operations. While we appreciate the power that cyber-enabled capabilities add, we also maintain a healthy respect for the asymmetric power that cyberspace affords our adversaries. We must maintain a constant commitment to educate, train, and equip our Airman to prevail in the contested domain of cyberspace.
In the past decade, technological advances have provided the means to generate decisive and magnified effects in domains that traditionally could only be achieved via kinetic means. We must continually adapt our operating concepts to leverage emerging cyberspace capabilities to ensure the Air Force maintains the decisive advantage over our adversaries.”
MAURICE H. FORSYTH
Major General, USAF
Commander, LeMay Center for Doctrine
Development and Education