Frontiers of Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Authoritarian Control: Professor Steven Feldstein

GPP/IAS Career Center Event

As a combined effort between the IAS Program and the Government & Public Policy Career Center Workgroup, this week’s speaker series hosted Steven Feldstein to share his current research on technology and authoritarian regimes, as well as his professional experiences at the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and now in academia. Feldstein is currently an associate professor of public affairs at Boise State University and a nonresident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On the topic of contemporary technology, Feldstein illuminated how innovations such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition biometrics, information distortion, and data mining are being harnessed by governments in authoritarian states. This trend contrasts with the belief—inspired by the Arab Spring in 2011—that technology and social media function primarily as a democratizing force. As a response to authoritarian manipulation of technology, actors in the civil sector are continuing to develop technological capabilities of their own. In order to mediate this increasing technological struggle between state and civil actors, Feldstein suggested further consideration of the creation of an international policy framework on the appropriate uses of technology for surveillance, as well as the creation of a private/public agreement on a code of conduct for sale and use of new technological software.