Liberation Technology: China’s “Networked Authoritarianism”

Issue Date April 2011
Volume 22
Issue 2
Page Numbers 32-46
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Read the full essay here.

While social networking platforms can be powerful tools in the hands of activists seeking to bring down authoritarian governments, it is unwise to assume that access to the Internet and social networking platforms alone is sufficient for democratization of repressive regimes. The case of China demonstrates how authoritarian regimes can adapt to the Internet, even using networked technologies to bolster legitimacy. The emergence of Chinese “networked authoritarianism” highlights difficult issues of policy and corporate responsibility that must be resolved in order to ensure that the Internet and mobile technologies can fulfill their potential to support liberation and empowerment.

About the Author

Rebecca MacKinnon is a Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. She is cofounder of Global Voices Online, a global citizen-media network. This essay draws on testimony that she gave before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China on 24 March 2010.

View all work by Rebecca MacKinnon