Authoritarianism and ICT
Academic debates on the role of digital technologies in authoritarian and democratic contexts rarely intersect. Research investigating the resilience of authoritarian regimes in the digital age generally runs parallel to inquiries about the ‘authoritarian qualities’ of digital technologies in liberal democracies. In a Special Section of the International Journal of Communication (September 2018), we break new ground by systematically examining authoritarian practices in relation to digital technologies in multilateral, transnational, and public–private settings.
For more information and findings, please look at our publications on authoritarianism and ICT.
In his PhD dissertation (defended July 2018), Kris Ruijgrok investigated the relationship between internet use and anti-government protest under authoritarian regimes. For his dissertation he conducted both quantitative analysis and fieldwork in Malaysia, studying the role of internet in the Reformasi period at the end of the 1990’s and the more recent Bersih protests. The dissertation demonstrates that, in spite of the internet's shortcomings - including online repression by regimes themselves - internet use does play an important role, especially in the early stages of mobilisation. By challenging the information scarcity in authoritarian societies and exposing citizens to alternative political information online, internet use increases disillusionment with the regimes.