China and other determined authoritarian states may prove undeterrable in their zeal to adopt repressive technologies. A more realistic goal, as Georgetown University scholar Nicholas Wright has argued, is to sway countries on the fence by pointing out the reputational costs of repression and supporting those who are advocating for civil liberties in this domain within their own countries. Democracy promoters (which we hope will one day again include the White House) will also want to recognize the coming changes to the authoritarian public sphere. They can start now in helping vulnerable populations and civil society to gain greater technological literacy to advocate for their rights in new domains. It is not too early for governments and civil society groups alike to study what technological and tactical countermeasures exist to circumvent and disrupt new authoritarian tools.
Seven years ago, techno-optimists expressed hope that a wave of new digital tools for social networking and self-expression could help young people in the Middle East and elsewhere to find their voices. Today, a new wave of Chinese-led technological advances threatens to blossom into what we consider an “Arab spring in reverse”—in which the next digital wave shifts the pendulum back, enabling state domination and repression at a staggering scale and algorithmic effectiveness.
Americans are absolutely right to be urgently focused on countering Russian weaponized hacking and leaking as its primary beneficiary sits in the Oval Office. But we also need to be more proactive in countering the tools of algorithmic authoritarianism that will shape the worldwide future of individual freedom….(More)”.