I've been meaning to point to Lee Siegel's review of Evgeny Morozov's new book "The Net Delusion - The Dark Side of Internet Freedom." A few clips:
Contrary to the “cyberutopians,” as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom...He quotes the political blogger Andrew Sullivan, who proclaimed after protesters took to the streets in Tehran that “the revolution will be Twittered.” The revolution never happened, and the futilely tweeting protesters were broken with an iron hand... What was broadcast on Twitter and elsewhere was repression of the revolution. The Iranian regime used the Web to identify photographs of protesters; to find out their personal information and whereabouts (through Facebook, naturally); to distribute propagandistic videos; and to text the population into counterrevolutionary paranoia.
As Morozov points out, don’t expect corporations like Google to liberate anyone anytime soon. Google did business in China for four years before economic conditions and censorship demands — not human rights concerns — forced it out. And it is telling that both Twitter and Facebook have refused to join the Global Network Initiative, a pact that Morozov describes as “an industrywide pledge . . . to behave in accordance with the laws and standards covering the right to freedom of expression and privacy embedded in internationally recognized documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Morozov urges the cyberutopians to open their eyes to the fact that the asocial pursuit of profit is what drives social media. “Not surprisingly,” he writes, “the dangerous fascination with solving previously intractable social problems with the help of technology allows vested interests to disguise what essentially amounts to advertising for their commercial products in the language of freedom and liberation.” In 2007, when he was at the State Department, Jared Cohen wrote with tragic wrongheadedness that “the Internet is a place where Iranian youth can . . . say anything they want as they operate free from the grips of the police-state apparatus.” Thanks to the exciting new technology, many of those freely texting Iranian youths are in prison or dead. Cohen himself now works for Google as the director of “Google Ideas.”