Monday, August 15, 2011

Recommended podcast: Maajid Nawaz on radical's use of the Internet

Maajid Nawaz
At first we naively expected the Internet and other communication technology to favor democracy over dictatorship. In a 1998 report on the Internet in Cuba, I wrote of
the 'dictator's dilemma' -- the desire to have the benefits of the Internet without the threat of political instability. How do you give people access to information for health care, education, and commerce while keeping them from political information?
Today, we have a more nuanced view of the Internet as a force for democracy -- we see that it is not only used by democrats, but by dictators and even terrorists, as illustrated by the use of Google Earth to plan missile attacks.
al-Aqsa commander in Gaza

Maajid Nawaz, presents a vivid picture of the use of the Internet by radical Islamists in his Ted Talk A global culture to fight extremism. Nawaz feels that extremists -- whether Islamists or white power advocates -- make better use of the Internet than democracy advocates. He speaks with authority, having used the Internet as a propagandist and recruiter for the global Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir for 13 years, including five years in an Egyptian prison for attempting to overthrow the government. He describes the use of the Net by extremists, asks why they have succeeded across borders and goes on to argue for a countervailing grass roots, youth-led movement to advocate for a democratic culture.