Digital authoritarianism presents four overlapping challenges, according to Erol Yayboke, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the CSIS Project on Prosperity and Development, and Samuel Brannen, Senior Fellow in the CSIS International Security Program (above):
- It is expanding within existing authoritarian-led states such as China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and the Internet of things have increased the ability of authoritarian regimes to surveil and control individual citizens.
- Authoritarian regimes are expanding the reach of their digital tools abroad, overtly and covertly increasing surveillance of their own citizens and citizens of other countries. They are also actively using these tools to undermine perceived state and non-state adversaries.
- Digital authoritarians are exporting their tools to like-minded regimes both as a means to strengthen ties to these regimes and for commercial benefit. Likewise, tools of control are being commercially exported from democratic countries to partly free or authoritarian countries.
- The tools, techniques, and strategies of digital authoritarianism are being adopted within democratic countries by political parties, interest groups, and private companies at the expense of public trust, personal privacy, and other civil liberties.