Keeping Out the Internet? Non-Democratic Legitimacy and Access to the Web

Geoffry Taubman

Abstract



Non-democratic and democratic regimes alike have been attracted to the promise of the global information superhighway. However, the Internet contains a number of features which are potentially damaging to the legitimacy of incumbent non-democratic governments. The scope and ease of obtaining information on the World Wide Web provides the means for undermining one of the central pillars of non-democratic rule: centralized control over the domestic distribution of information and ideas. Furthermore, the communication capabilities available to Internet users assists in the creation of autonomous "public spaces" which can threaten the political preeminence of non-democratic authorities.

Unfortunately for skittish regimes, designing solutions to the make cyberspace "safe" for public use in order to preempt internal challenges to state authorities are hampered by the fact that the features which cause problems for non-democratic rulers are the same attributes which make the technology so attractive. I will examine several countries' history with the Internet, with particular attention paid to China, to illustrate the attractions of the Internet and the lengths to which officials have gone to make this technology politically reliable.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v7i9.984



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