July 21, 2010, 11:02 a.m.
Donor countries show increasing interest in information and communication technologies (ICT) as tools of democracy assistance. The debate over ICTs' effectiveness has more or less concluded that ICTs are neutral with respect to democracy; they are tools that can aid both reformers and the autocratic regimes that seek to repress them.
Writing for the July 2010 Journal of Democracy, Larry Diamond concludes (PDF) that, qualifications aside, new media constitute a fundamentally democratizing force. The alternative information they carry provides cause for collective action, and their network-oriented natures facilitate it. Moreover, the volume of "communication and networking online" presents an effectively insurmountable challenge to would-be censors.
Diamond's advice to implementers is to develop and disseminate "circumvention technologies" while remaining firm on human rights.