The Road to Digital Unfreedom: The Threat of Postmodern Totalitarianism

Issue Date January 2019
Volume 30
Issue 1
Page Numbers 20-24
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Once hailed as a great force for human empowerment and liberation, social media and related digital tools have rapidly come to be regarded as a major threat to democratic stability and human freedom. Based on a deeply problematic business model, social-media platforms are showing the potential to exacerbate hazards that range from authoritarian privacy violations to partisan echo chambers to the spread of malign disinformation. Authoritarian forces are also profiting from a series of other advances in digital technology, notably including the revolution in artificial intelligence (AI). These developments have the potential to fuel a “postmodern totalitarianism” vividly illustrated by China’s rapidly expanding projects of digital surveillance and social control. They also pose a series of challenges for contemporary democracies.

About the Author

Larry Diamond is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. The January 2022 issue is his last after 32 years as coeditor of the Journal of Democracy.

View all work by Larry Diamond