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The Internet Freedom League

How to Push Back Against the Authoritarian Assault on the Web

Logged out: a woman at an Internet café in Beijing, July 2011 Im Chi Yin / The New York Times / Redux

The early days of the Internet inspired a lofty dream: authoritarian states, faced with the prospect of either connecting to a new system of global communication or being left out of it, would choose to connect. According to this line of utopian thinking, once those countries connected, the flow of new information and ideas from the outside world would inexorably pull them toward economic openness and political liberalization. In reality, something quite different has happened. Instead of spreading democratic values and liberal ideals, the Internet has become the backbone of authoritarian surveillance states all over the world. Regimes in China, Russia, and elsewhere have used the Internet’s infrastructure to build their own national networks. At the same time, they have installed technical and legal barriers to prevent their citizens from reaching the wider Internet and to limit Western companies from entering their digital markets. 

But despite handwringing in Washington

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