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Repression in the Digital Age: Surveillance, Censorship, and the Dynamics of State Violence

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Dr. Anita Gohdes, Professor of International and Cyber Security at the Hertie School, Berlin

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Global adoption of the Internet has exploded, yet we are only beginning to understand the Internet's profound political consequences. Authoritarian states are digitally catching up with their democratic counterparts, and both are showing a growing interest in the use of cyber controls--online censorship and surveillance technologies--that allow governments to exercise control over the Internet. Under what conditions does a digitally connected society actually help states target their enemies? Why do repressive governments sometimes shut down the Internet when faced with uprisings? And how have cyber controls become a dependable tool in the weapons arsenal that states use in civil conflict?

In Repression in the Digital Age, Anita R. Gohdes addresses these questions, and provides an original and in-depth look into the relationship between digital technologies and state violence. Drawing on large-scale analyses of fine-grained data on the Syrian conflict, qualitative case evidence from Iran, and the first global comparative analysis on Internet outages and state repression, Gohdes makes the case that digital infrastructure supports security forces in their use of violent state repression. More specifically, she argues that mass access to the Internet presents governments who fear for their political survival with a set of response options. When faced with a political threat, they can either temporarily restrict or block online public access or they can expand mass access to online information and monitor it to their own advantage. Surveillance allows security forces to target opponents of the state more selectively, while extreme forms of censorship or shutdowns of the Internet occur in conjunction with larger and more indiscriminate repression. As digital communication has become a bedrock of modern opposition and protest movements, Repression in the Digital Age breaks new ground in examining state repression in the information age.



Order Repression in the Digital Age: Surveillance, Cencorship, and the Dynamics of State Violence from Oxford University Press



Dr. Anita Gohdes is Professor of International and Cyber Security at the Hertie School. Her research focuses on contentious politics in the cyber realm, with a current emphasis on large-scale quantitative analyses of state behaviour. Previously, she was Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Zurich, and postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center International Security Program. Since 2009, she has worked for the California-based non-profit organisation Human Rights Data Analysis Group. She currently advises the German Federal Foreign Office, and has consulted for the World Bank and the United Nations on security and state fragility. Her doctoral dissertation (University of Mannheim) was awarded the German Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences by the Körber Foundation, and the Walter Isard Dissertation Award by the Peace Science Society. Anita Gohdes is part of the Centre for International Security's research team.



Leslie Johns is a professor of political science and law at UCLA. She is also Associate Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations. Her research focuses on international law, organizations, and political economy. In 2022, Cambridge University Press published her newest book, Politics and International Law: Making, Breaking, and Upholding Global Rules. You can access related news stories on the book's Twitter account: @PoliticsIntlLaw. Her work appears in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Journal of Politics. Her first book–Strengthening International Courts: The Hidden Costs of Legalization–was published in 2015 by the University of Michigan Press. She received the Michael Wallerstein Award for political economy in 2017. She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former research fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University (2012-2013 and 2021-2022).


This event is sponsored by the Burkle Center for International Relations and co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, The UCLA Promise Institute for Human Rights, and the Institute for Technology, Law and Policy at UCLA Law.