Autocracy login: internet censorship and civil society in the digital age

by Usman Khan

Authors: Chun-Chih Chang&Thung-Hong Lin

Affiliation: Xiamen University & Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica

Organization/Publisher: Routledge

Date/Place: April 3, 2020/China
Type of Literature: Article

Number of Pages: 23 


Keywords: Internet, Civil-society, Censorship. 



The article discusses whether the internet contributes to the rise of civil society or whether it provides the state with a means to suppress civil society. The authors argue that human life has been reshaped by the prevalence of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The optimists have argued that the internet empowers individuals, facilitates independent communication and mobilization, and strengthens an emergent civil society. However, the adoption of various new technologies by governments to mitigate threats, such as just-in-time blocking, patriotic hacking, targeted surveillance, and social malware, have kept the fear of state surveillance and censorship alive. Theories on internet and civil society analyze the impact of internet diffusion on the relations between state and civil society. The theory of cyber-utopianism concludes that the increasing of information and social capital empowers civil society and undermines state sovereignty and its capacity. On the contrary, the skeptical perspective challenges cyber-utopianism by claiming that the internet may not benefit the development of civil society. The study explains the essential role which civil society plays in the relationship between the internet and democratization. Comparative political studies of the impact of the internet on political transition have generally ignored the autocratic strategies of manipulation and demobilization, through which internet technologies are applied to suppress the development of civil society. The present study clarifies the theoretical implications of the effect of autocratic internet censorship on civil society, which elucidates current studies of the new wave of autocratization. 


By: Usman Khan Pathan, CIGA Research Associate

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