Countering authoritarianism in the digital space #Forum2000online

April 28, 2022

In this week’s #Forum2000online Chat, María Virginia Marín, political scientist and Executive Director and founder of ProBox, a digital observatory focused on political and social trends, joined Arzu Geybulla, a journalist and member of the Forum 2000 Program Council, to talk about authoritarianism in the digital space and how to counter it. "As we know, China has one of the world’s most restrictive media environments, using censorship to control the information on the news, online, and on social media. The same happens in other countries under authoritarian regime", says María Virginia Marín. Is it possible to monitor and counter this? How?

According to María Virginia Marín, you will learn that:

  • A 2019 Brookings Institution report defines digital authoritarianism as “the use of digital information technology by authoritarian regimes to surveil, repress, and manipulate domestic and foreign populations.”
  • China has one of the world’s most restrictive media environments and Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have been building digital authoritarianism in China for years.
  • Chinese big tech such as ZTE and Huawei have helped Maduro`s regime to build mechanisms of control and surveillance of the citizens in Venezuela 
  • In Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the traditional media have been censored and persecuted. This has caused a migration of audience, as the internet has become the most important source of information for citizens, journalists, dissidents and people in exile.
  • Censorship, manipulation and control of the information in Latin American authoritarian societies are very similar to the many restrictions applied by the Chinese government to suppress freedom of expression in China
  • Democratic values and freedom of expression are seriously compromised around the world by censorship and control of information online. 
  • Civil society, independent media and journalists, dissidents and the majority of the population in authoritarian societies are at a disadvantage, as they face regimes with power and resources. Platforms, decision-makers and policymakers can help by creating a safer environment and providing more support to citizens.

The interview was recorded on April 20, 2022, and moderated by Arzu Geybulla, journalist and member of the Forum 2000 Program Council. The production of the interview was supported by the U.S. Embassy Prague.