This report examines whether and how furthering Internet freedom can empower civil society vis-à-vis public officials, make the government more accountable to its citizens, and integrate citizens into the policymaking process.
The Internet has become a new battleground between governments that censor online content and those who advocate freedom to browse, post, and share information online for all, regardless of their place of residence. This report examines whether and how furthering Internet freedom can empower civil society vis-à-vis public officials, make the government more accountable to its citizens, and integrate citizens into the policymaking process. Using case studies of events in 2011 in Egypt, Syria, China, and Russia, researchers focus on the impact of Internet freedom on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and the right to cast a meaningful vote, all of which are the key pillars of political space. Researchers analyze the mechanisms by which Internet freedom can enhance the opportunities to enjoy these freedoms, how different political contexts can alter the opportunities for online mobilization, and how, subsequently, online activism can grow out into offline mobilization leading to visible policy changes. To provide historical context, researchers also draw parallels between the effects of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty programs in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the ongoing efforts to expand Internet freedom for all. The report concludes by discussing implications for the design of Internet freedom programs and other measures to protect "freedom to connect."
Authored by Olesya Tkacheva, Lowell H. Schwartz, Martin C. Libicki, Julie E. Taylor, Jeffrey Martini, and Caroline Baxter.