When it comes to the impact of authoritarian sharp power on the future of democracy, perhaps no other domain is as pivotal as that of technology. Technological interdependence has enabled modernizing authoritarians to reach across borders to censor and manipulate public discourse, sharpen polarization, and undermine democracy. From “safe-city” surveillance projects to state-linked disinformation campaigns on social-media platforms, authoritarians’ technological footprint can be seen around the world. Authoritarian regimes are also working to shape the international standards and norms that will govern the next generation of technology. Mounting an effective response will require a long-term, purposeful strategy rooted in civil society as well as in state institutions.
Even if the authoritarian behemoths do not explicitly seek to remold the world in their own image, the dangers to civil liberties are growing as authoritarian styles of social management are being baked into the world’s technological architecture.