In an Oxford-style debate, Palfrey argued against the following motion: “This house believes that the Internet is not inherently a force for democracy.”
“The internet is inherently a force for democracy,” Palfrey said in his opening statement. “That will not necessarily always be true, but it is the case today, given its present architecture and the way that people use the network.”
Evgeny Morozov, author of “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom,” defended the motion: “While the internet has the potential to both oppress and liberate, which side dominates depends on the social and political context in which it is used rather than on some internal ‘logic’ that derives from its architecture or culture.”
Readers determined the winner, with Palfrey’s position receiving 58 percent of the vote.
Palfrey is the vice dean of library and information resources at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. His most recent book (with Urs Gasser) is “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” (Basic Books, 2008).