Friday, 31 August 2012

The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention by Laurier Rochon

Lowdown: A despot’s self-help manual on how to use the Internet to improve his control over the dictatorship.
The recent Arab Spring uprisings have often been labelled The Facebook Revolution. Is that right? Can we count on the Internet to free people from tyranny by virtue of it simply being there? No, says Laurier Rochon in his essay/booklet The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention (a free download here). In actual fact, he argues, the Internet can be used to do the exact opposite. He goes forth to prove his point in this dictator’s guide, a detailed point by point practical guide written for dictators and instructing them how to do just that: how to use the Internet for an even tighter control over their people.
Grounded in fact and offering plenty of examples, our guide here contains many a reference to various measures in actual tyrannies around the world today. From Singapore through Putin to North Korea, no inspiring dictator is ignored in this piece of work.
Obviously, Rochon is no dictator’s friend. He is out there to prove a point on how easily the Internet can be twisted into a power for evil. Us readers should read it in reverse: any recommendation Rochon makes is, in actual fact, something we should actively avoid. So, when Rochon recommends dictators centralize their ISPs, to name but one example, and goes on to demonstrate how this strategy is used in various dictatorships (Iran is a case in point), we know that we should act to prevent the Internet from being under the total control of the Telstras of this world (who, by the way, are already censoring the Internet for their customers). Indeed, with iiNet's recent purchase of Internode, and rumors concerning iiNet itself being gobbled up by TPG, warning signs should start flashing with the average Australians.
That is to say, The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention’s main value is not for dictatorships at all; it is written for us, citizens of the free world, as a wake up call against the various stakeholder that wish to subdue the Internet away from us. Be it ACTA, TPP, SOPA, National Security Inquiry, Patriot Act or just your average copyright industry demand, our Internet is always in danger – and thus our freedom is as well.
Short, sharp and very often funny, this Dictator’s Guide stands out in contrast with the recently reviewed The Transparent Society. Both share many a theme, but while the latter is lengthy and lacking in factual grounding, the former hits the mark in both readability and firm evidence basing of arguments.
Overall: The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention is not only educational, it’s good entertainment too. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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