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Who controls the web

DATA LEGISLATION: World autocracies introduce new internet laws to prevent the emergence of "rebel" groups, such as democracy movements and human rights organizations.

Although there is still cause for concern about civilian abuse by security forces in autocratic regimes, these regimes have increasingly used legal and bureaucratic tools to cripple opponents in recent years. For example, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Russia, Tanzania, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Venezuela have introduced increasingly stringent requirements for registration of organizations, foreign funding and public assembly. Autocracies have also taken great liberties in interpreting and using pre-existing laws that prohibit vaguely defined offenses, such as defamation and incitement to revolt, as well as anti-terrorism legislation. The latest addition to their arsenal of suppression methods is the new Internet laws.

Most countries have adopted Internet laws to safeguard privacy, fight crime and ensure financial transparency – and for good reason. But autocratic regimes often develop such laws in order to keep their opponents at bay, which they succeed by using an ambiguous language in the drafting of the laws. For example, when it comes to identifying who poses a social threat online, such laws may point to groups or individuals who have "a malicious will," seeking to "counter the state," "jeopardize the security or ideology of the kingdom," distort facts to create public panic "," promote homosexuality "or" create anti-state people's movements ". Such unspecified definitions make it possible for autocrats to portray any opponent as a security risk – thus obtaining a pretext to sweep the opponent off the field while scaring citizens to stand behind the regime.

Statutory suppression

There are many examples of this in Southeast Asia: Seven of the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) still have some form of autocracy: authoritarian democracy (Cambodia, Singapore and Myanmar), one-party rule (Laos, Vietnam) , autocratic monarchy (Brunei) and military rule. . .



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janjira@nytid.com
Sombatpoonsiri is a senior lecturer in political science at Thammasat University and affiliated with the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA). She is also the author of Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia. (c) Project Syndicate, 2019. www.project-syndicate.org

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