Censorship has evolved. In both authoritarian and democratic contexts, new forms of censorship online are now carried out through distributed attacks on freedom of expression – which are often insidiously difficult to detect and just as effective, if not more, than the kinds of brute force state censorship that came before.
In A New Wave of Censorship: Distributed Attacks on Expression and Press Freedom, Daniel Arnaudo analyzes case studies in Ukraine, Turkey, the Philippines, Bahrain, and China to elucidate how new forms of distributed online censorship have undermined the public sphere, and with it, freedom of expression and press freedom. Their goal is not always to block users and content, emphasizes Arnaudo, but to attack democratic discourse more broadly and weaken trust in institutions like the media, civil society, opposition voices, and even other governments.
These strategies increasingly polarize and diminish the networked public sphere, resulting in a more dangerous and confined space for media and civil society to operate in. The internet, we now recognize, can be a tool for either the oppressor or the oppressed – and with this recognition comes an understanding that intelligent and coordinated responses can shape the existing socio-political reality, online and off.
An initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy