This book is essentially a warning to the West – a term that is never defined but refers more or less to US policy-makers – about its blinkered cyber-utopianism. Evgeny Morozov rightly disparages those who naively imagine that Internet tools alone can produce political change (a position most crudely articulated within the Washington beltway by Hillary Clinton and Jared Cohen), and warns that this is ‘how not to liberate the world’. He legitimately argues that authoritarian regimes are also active on the Internet, using surveillance, propaganda and controls on both access and content. He notes various practices employed by governments – mainly the Chinese, the Russians and the Iranians – to limit free speech and popular use of the Web, especially if deemed to be in any way political. But his argument becomes a one-sided rant about the lurking dangers to Internet free speech, and it doesn’t concede any possible use of the Net for political reform.
The wave of insurrection currently sweeping across the Maghreb and the Middle East has shown that solidarity on the streets coupled with the mobilising, organising and reporting capacities of Internet-based technologies can produce political change. The reality of these varied experiences gives the lie both to simplistic cyber-utopianism