A round table on European dynamics at the Content Moderation in the Age of DSA event (credits: Sciences Po)
[REVIEW] A look back at the Conference “ Content Moderation in the Age of DSA”
14 February 2023
[INTERVIEW] “Chinese strategy of Cyber/Network Sovereignty” with Johannes Thumfart
16 February 2023

[INTERVIEW] “Digital Sovereignty and Digital Authoritarianism” with Nate Persily

This series of interviews was recorded as part of the the Annual Conference of the Digital, Governance and Sovereignty Chair which took place on the 6th December 2023 on the theme of “Digital Sovereignty and Geopolitical Crisis“.

While the notion of “digital sovereignty” is mostly used in Europe as a synonym for the concept of “strategic autonomy”, as coined by the European Union, it is also used, outside Europe, to refer to strategies aimed at regaining control of the global network. In fact, since the beginning of the 2000s, China and Russia have been trying to build a so-called “sovereign Internet” both at the lower layers (servers, protocols) and upper layers (social networks, messaging services) of the Internet. In light of these two examples, can we fear, as is often the case across the Atlantic, that the concept of “digital sovereignty” risks legitimizing shifts toward digital authoritarianism?

The conference approached the notion of digital sovereignty in a renewed, global perspective, including a discussion of the digital and cyber features of the Ukraine war and the current technological confrontation between China and the United States.

In this interview, Nate Persily, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Co-Director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, explores how digital technologies can be used as a tool by authoritarian regimes.

Nate Persily is the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, with appointments in the departments of Political Science, Communication, and FSI.  Professor Persily’s scholarship and legal practice focus on American election law or what is sometimes called the “law of democracy,” which addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance, redistricting, and election administration. Professor Persily is coauthor of the leading election law casebook, The Law of Democracy (Foundation Press, 5th ed., 2016), with Samuel Issacharoff, Pamela Karlan, and Richard Pildes. His current work, for which he has been honored as a Guggenheim Fellow, Andrew Carnegie Fellow, and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, examines the impact of changing technology on political communication, campaigns, and election administration.  He is codirector of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, Stanford Program on Democracy and the Internet, and the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a commissioner on the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age.  He co-edited the book Social Media and Democracy (CUP, 2020), and helped author the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA) that was proposed in the US Congress in December 2021.