The Net Delusion provides extensive evidence to refute the myth of technological determinism – specifically the myth that technology can solve enormous political problems.The myth that the internet will liberate the world is typical of the dreams of utopia that have accompanied the initial diffusion of many radical technologies over the past 150 years.
The use of the internet developed rapidly during the period of United States euphoria following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the popular imagination, the role of the policies of the United States Government in bringing this about was overestimated in comparison with the role of internal weaknesses in the Soviet Union. In some respects, this was analogous to the exaggeration of the role of the Bolshevik Revolution in bringing about the collapse of the very weak Tsarist regime in 1917.
Generally, revolutionaries learn to use new media before established authoritarian powers. New social media provide powerful weapons to the opponents of established political powers for as long as the opposition exploits these new media better than the authorities. But authoritarian governments soon see possibilities for turning the new technologies against the opposition, and have access to greater resources.
Many people suppose that the internet will help to free oppressed people, but The Net Delusion shows that it has also become a tool for control.
The net delusion: how not to liberate the world, by Evgeny Morozov, London, Allen Lane, 2011, xvii + 408 pages.
The full review was published in Prometheus, Volume 29, issue 2, 2011, pages 194-197