Digital Repression: Confronting the Evolving Challenge

October 19, 2021
09:00 am - 10:15 am


about the event

The International Forum for Democratic Studies and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are pleased to invite you to a joint online event on the evolving challenge of digital repression. From the rollout of biometric surveillance tools to advances in machine learning to new social media regulations, recent developments in technology and its governance are also presenting new opportunities for authoritarian abuse. How has digital repression evolved in recent years, and what can democracy’s supporters do to craft more rights-respecting technological norms?

To address these and other critical issues, the Carnegie Endowment has assembled the Digital Democracy Network—a diverse group of cutting-edge thinker-activists engaged in work on technology and politics. The network aims to facilitate cross-regional knowledge sharing, support collaborative strategies to pressing problems, and investigate previously unknown and emerging questions in the field. Accompanying the launch of the network is a compilation of essays, “Issues on the Frontlines of Technology and Politics.” This compilation represents the network’s first effort to describe challenges to governance posed by digital technology.

The digital fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the urgency of facing up to the digital authoritarian threat, engaging civil society on technological governance, and bolstering democratic resilience in this critical field. Join us for a discussion featuring Digital Democracy Network members Arindrajit Basu, Irene Poetranto, and Jan Rydzak on the ever-changing contours of the digital repression landscape, and its implications for democracies around the world.



Arindrajit Basu, Centre for Internet and Society

Irene Poetranto, The Citizen Lab

Jan Rydzak, Ranking Digital Rights


with remarks by

Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Christopher Walker, National Endowment for Democracy

Steven Feldstein, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


moderated by

Elizabeth Kerley, International Forum for Democratic Studies


about the participants

Arindrajit Basu is Research Lead at the Centre for Internet & Society, India (CIS), where he focuses on the geopolitics and constitutionality of emerging technologies. He has also held consulting positions with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Diplomat Risk Intelligence, and the Association for Progressive Communications. He holds a BA, LLB (Hons) degree from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, and an LLM in public international law from the University of Cambridge, U.K.

Irene Poetranto is a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, where she studies the politics of internet regulation in Southeast Asia. Previously she worked for the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Southeast Asia Research. Her research interests include Internet governance and the politics of Internet regulation, digital security and identity politics, and countering terrorism, violent extremism, and hate speech online.

Jan Rydzak is a human rights researcher and the Company and Investor Engagement Manager at Ranking Digital Rights. His research revolves around how effectively technology companies address the human rights risks their users face, how online dynamics reverberate in the offline world, and how collective mobilization works in volatile circumstances. He has previously worked as Associate Director for Program at Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi), a fellow with the European Commission, a consultant with the United Nations, and a Google Policy Fellow with the Global Network Initiative. He holds a PhD and an MA in Government & Public Policy from the University of Arizona as well as an MA in Modern Languages from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Poland.

Thomas Carothers is interim president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He co-directs the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program and is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He is the author or editor of ten critically acclaimed books, including most recently, Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization (Brookings Press, 2019, co-edited with Andrew O’Donohue).

Steven Feldstein is senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. He has previously served as Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs and associate professor at Boise State University; deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of State’s Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau; and director of policy at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is the author of The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Christopher Walker is vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. He is an expert on authoritarian regimes and has been at the forefront of the discussion on authoritarian influence on open systems. He is co-editor (with Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner) of the edited volume Authoritarianism Goes Global: The Challenge to Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), and co-editor (with Jessica Ludwig) of the report Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence (NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, 2017).

Elizabeth Kerley is a program officer focusing on emerging technologies with the research and conferences section of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies. She was previously associate editor of the Journal of Democracy. She holds a PhD in history from Harvard University and a BSFS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.


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