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The New Net Delusion 

Geoff Shullenberger

How 2010’s digital utopians became 2020’s tech prophets of doom

In June 2009, large protests broke out in Iran in the wake of a disputed election result. The unrest did not differ all that much from comparable episodes that had occurred elsewhere in the world over the preceding decades, but many Western observers became convinced that new digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook were propelling the movement. By the time the Arab Spring kicked off with an anti-government uprising in Tunisia the following year, the belief had become widespread that social media was fomenting insurgencies for liberalization in authoritarian regimes.

The most vigorous dissenter from this cheerful consensus was technology critic Evgeny Morozov, whose 2011 book The Net Delusion inveighed against the “cyber-utopianism” then common among academics, bloggers, journalists, activists, and policymakers. For Morozov, cyber-utopians were captive to a “naïve belief in the emancipatory nature of online communication that rests on a stubborn refusal to acknowledge its downside.”...

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Geoff Shullenberger is a lecturer in the Expository Writing Program at New York University.