Vox Conversations

Vox Conversations brings you discussions between the brightest minds and the deepest thinkers; conversations that will cause you to question old assumptions and think about the world and our role in it in a new light. Join Sean Illing, Jamil Smith, and their colleagues across the Vox newsroom for new episodes every Monday and Thursday.



Digital dictatorship

The internet was first conceived as a tool to promote free expression, to foster and enliven debate, and to strengthen democratic ideals. But it didn’t quite work out that way. In this episode, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp talks with Steven Feldstein, author of The Rise of Digital Repression, about how governing regimes use digital technology to repress their citizens; the threats posed by surveillance, disinformation, and censorship; and how democracies can backslide into authoritarianism.

Host: Zack Beauchamp (@zackbeauchamp), Senior Correspondent, Vox

Guest: Steven Feldstein (@SteveJFeldstein), Author; senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment


  • The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance by Steven Feldstein (Oxford University Press; 2021)
  • “Maria Ressa: Philippine journalist found guilty of cyber libel” (June 15, 2020; BBC)
  • “[Senator Leila] De Lima’s four-year struggle in prison” by Vince Ferreras (Mar 16; CNN Philippines)
  • “Sandvine Technology Used to Censor the Web in More Than a Dozen Nations” by Ryan Gallagher (Oct. 8, 2020; Bloomberg)
  • “Social media is rotting democracy from within” by Zack Beauchamp (Jan. 22, 2019; Vox)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Paul Robert Mounsey
  • VP, Vox Audio: Liz Kelly Nelson

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 2021-06-10  59m