The way dictators exploit technology has been a long-time concern for Evgeny Morozov. Morozov believes media and the public have started paying more attention to this in large part because the struggles of the so-called Arab Spring have revealed how fundamental complicity of western-world tech companies has been to the maintenance of oppression in non-industrialized countries. Although the United States has hundreds of laws against engaging in trade with dictatorships, the distribution channels of software or hardware products may conceal transactions with countries that world leaders claim are threats.
Morozov admits that recognizing the good guys from the bad guys is never clear. For example, the new government in Libya that removed Khaddafi, with the technologically sophisticated help of NATO, made banning pornographic websites a priority, while next door, Tunisian security affiliates continue to tamper with email communications of their protestors and dissidents, even inserting pornographic attachments to frame or harass targeted groups. Morozov suspects this kind of attack has an additional effect of undermining confidence that people have in the various technology. As these and many other plots thicken, Morozov says some companies specializing in surveillance complain that regulating or outlawing a corporation's trade with an offending country is a sure job killer in the U.S. In hi-lighting this opinion he shares a fascinating letter written to the Wall Street Journal regarding their investigative reporting on technology companies' trading with dictatorships.
Evgeny Morozov is author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. Morozov is currently a contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine and Boston Review. He is also a visiting scholar at Stanford University and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. He was formerly a Yahoo! fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a fellow at George Soros's Open Society Institute, where he remains on the board of the Information Program. Before moving to the US, Morozov was Director of New Media at Transitions Online, a Prague-based media development NGO active in 29 countries of the former Soviet bloc.
Morozov's writings have appeared in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Globe and Mail, The New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, Prospect, The Sunday Times, The Boston Globe, Slate, Le Monde, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Review, Foreign Policy, Project Syndicate, Dissent and many other publications.
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Photo: Evgeny Morozov