The Dictator’s practical Internet guide to power retention

The Dictator’s practical Internet guide to power retention was written to warn people how autocracies can use the internet to cement their power. It’s being discussed on Hacker News

A response by democracies could be to have a “Freedom Computing” initiative that ensures that freedom-enhancing technologies (anonymity and secure communications) are supported out-of-the-box in the protocols the internet runs, internet-based services and computing hardware.

Then, authoritarian regimes would either have to accept that the internet allows freedom, or would have to build their own software and hardware that works the way they want (and would have compatibility problems with the democratic internet). China would have the resources to do this, but many smaller autocracies might not. And would smaller autocracies want to be beholden to China?

Even if the autocracies banded together, if all the democracies got behind freedom computing, then as democracies have a larger share of world GDP than autocracies[1], the free internet would have larger network effects accruing to it than the unfree internet, ensuring that democracies outgrow autocracies and eventually win[2].


1: true if you count the USA and EU as democracies, which sadly is not a given since (i) the USA is mostly ruled by corporations not people, and (ii) while EU member states are mostly democratic, the EU central bureaucracy has a democratic deficit with the elected European Parliament being a weak institution without much power.

2: furthermore, countries are more likely to transition from autocracy to democracy than the other way round, which also helps democracy win.

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