Rising to digital authoritarians’ sharp power challenge


Democratic complacency in the face of ever-more brazen authoritarianism has brought the world to a perilous juncture, argues Christopher Walker, Vice President for Studies and Analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Authoritarian powers are working to reshape the global technological environment to fit their chief priorities: control and surveillance, both inside and outside their borders. For this reason, democracies must accelerate and deepen their efforts to adopt common technological standards that embrace transparency and accountability, he writes for the Journal of Democracy: 

The stakes for implementing a proactive democratic response to sharp power are rising as emerging technology offers autocrats the promise of even greater influence at once-unimaginable scales. Even the internet’s openness has provided considerable opportunities for intrusion and manipulation by authoritarian powers. And China, Russia, and other autocracies are only scratching the surface of their technological opportunities.

Unless democratic societies rise to the challenge by leveraging their inherent competitive advantages—creativity, free expression, openness, and accountability—the sharp-power challenge will continue to mount, Walker suggests. RTWT

The international nature of this phenomenon demands an international response and solidarity, adds the Resistance Bureau, which convened thought leaders, digital activists, and those who have been spied on themselves to discuss these threats to freedom and how they can be effectively countered (above).

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