Utopians believed the internet would be an unstoppable force for democracy, but the bad guys have got wise
Cyberspace was born free, but everywhere it is in chains. Once a promised land inhabited by visionaries, libertarians and freedom fighters, it has become a war zone. “The Harry Potter age of the internet,” says Professor Ron Deibert, “is over.”
Deibert is director of the Citizen Lab at Toronto University, which monitors state and corporate control of cyberspace. In a recent Citizen Lab survey of 69 countries, it learnt that 40 had internet restrictions.
“There was a myth that the internet was impossible to control, a realm that had some magical properties that eluded control … but there’s been a maturation over the past 10 years and creeping regulation from the private sector and the state,” says Deibert. “We’re seeing the ways in which control is exercised becoming much more sophisticated.”
The Chinese don’t like Deibert. Last week at the United Nations internet governance forum in Egypt, the Chinese, via UN officials, forced him to take down a poster about Chinese cyber-restrictions. Earlier this year the Infowar Monitor at the Citizen Lab uncovered Ghostnet, a huge cyber-spying operation across 103 countries. Truly, Harry Potternet is dead. What happened?