How to Be a Dictator in the Age of the Internet

Having taken a look at electronic voting in Friday’s post, today we look at the other side of the coin: how can dictators use the internet to stay in power? Laurier Rochon has a few answers in a free e-book, The Dictator’s Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention.

A dictator’s goals for the internet are to destroy security and anonymity. The three essential conditions for achieving these goals are:

  1. Relative political stability (no protests in the streets)
  2. Centralized telecommunications infrastructure (one ISP)
  3. Non-democratic selection of officials

Once you have done this, you can begin to exert control over the populace and will be well on your way to lifelong control. As dictator, you will get to make the following decisions:

  1. What is the right trade-off between economic prosperity and tight regulation? (the Dictator’s Dilemma)
  2. How much entertainment will you allow? (more cat videos, less protest)
  3. What will be the punishment for violating your rules? (breaking kneecaps of violators, taking it out on the populace at large)

Being a dictator is not easy, but with a few key decisions on internet policy your life can be a lot simpler. Laurier also shares his tips below:

This short, partly tongue-in-cheek book is worth a read if you like the talk. I also look forward to some winter break reading on this topic with The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy and possibly Consent of the Networked.