Week Four

When coming into power, many authoritarian rulers may face what is called a dictator’s dilemma. This conflict is developed when rulers extract information from citizens through elections or electronic means and are then faced with the “dilemma” of whether or not to act on this information. Handling the situation correctly is essential to keep citizens telling the truth and giving you valid information about where the opposition lies and the true feelings of the nation. Monitoring of the Internet has greatly enhanced the means of obtaining such information for authoritarian regimes as well as given the opportunity for personal information to be sold, even for individuals residing in democratic countries.

In Eli Pariser’s book “The Filter Bubble,” he describes the increased capability of search engines and social media networks to obtain personal information from its users. This information is then sold to advertisers in order to create more targeted advertising for users of websites that they visit. Search engine creators hope to create Internet searches that are highly personalized and even able to think of what you want to search for before the user types in a query. The fragmentation of identity that occurs and the restriction of content pose serious consequences that limit advertisements and information that may not be what these search think we personally are looking for. This, in turn, limits exposure to content and increases self-interest ideals, damaging the democratic process.

Morozov in “Net Delusion” discusses the ability for media to influence popular beliefs concerning the government and how certain content can influence their views. He also goes in depth concerning thinking processes of authoritarian regimes when deciding whether to create major firewalls for citizens surfing the Internet to navigate or keep Internet access open.

With the development of very centralized advertising from search engines and other websites, content viewing has become narrower and narrower. Suppose you are a dictator in power with the idealized form of browsing of the Internet proposed by search engines as discussed in Parisier’s book. Based on these conditions, would you implement Internet censorship in your country or Internet freedom? What factors are important in your decision and what risks would you then face from your people due to  of your decision?

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2 Responses to Week Four

  1. bhkadin says:

    The dictator’s dilemma was one of the concepts that intrigued me most in this week’s reading. The Internet has become so intrusive with government and companies being able to see the activities of citizens. I do not see the point in censoring the Internet when these search engines have the ability to track users’ every move. You search for something once and an advertisement for it follows you on the Internet. Dictators can utilize this tool. If they do not like what their citizens are searching for, they can ask these search engines to have an ad or message follow the citizen that contradicts the search. This will make citizens feel guilty and aware that someone is always watching. The Internet has become so intrusive, I do not see the difference between censorship and “freedom” anymore.

  2. rebyi says:

    I don’t understand the dictator’s dilemma, not the concept of it, but more, why a dictator would feel the need to censor something on the Internet just because he/she doesn’t agree with what their citizens are looking at. I feel that the Internet is a hard thing to censor because it is so much bigger than just a society because it is so globalized. Censoring one website won’t change a person’s view on the matter or kill their curiosity to search for more information, it’ll just justify why doing something against the government isn’t that bad, because the government, after all, is preventing a citizen’s freedom. Also, the more people use the Internet is the more information the government is gathering to use for their own good. I wouldn’t implement a censorship on the Internet if I were a dictator because I think it’s very useful to have as much information on my citizens as possible. Maybe with the use of cookies and artificial intelligence programming, advertisements supporting the government can follow the relevant citizens around instead of materialistic advertisements. Even if this means not being able to use propaganda or “brainwash” my citizens I think the most powerful source of getting something out of people is gathering what their giving us online.

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