What happens to democracy and free speech if people use the Internet to create echo chambers--to listen and speak only to the like-minded? What is the democratic benefit of the Internet's unlimited choices if citizens narrowly limit the information they receive, creating ever-smaller niches and fragmenting the shared public conversation on which democracy depends? Cass Sunstein first asked these questions before 9/11, in Republic.com, and they have become even more urgent in the years since.
Now, in Republic.com 2.0, Sunstein thoroughly rethinks the critical relationship between democracy and the Internet in a world where partisan Web logs have emerged as a significant force in politics and where cyber-jihadists have embraced the Internet to thwart democracy and spread violence.
Emphasizing the value of unplanned, unchosen encounters, the original Republic.com provoked a strong reaction from cyber-optimists. In Republic.com 2.0 Sunstein answers the critics and expands his argument to take account of new developments, including the blogosphere, and fresh evidence about how people are using the Internet. He demonstrates that the real question is how to avoid "information cocoons" and to ensure that the unrestricted choices made possible by technology do not undermine democracy. Sunstein also proposes new remedies and reforms--focusing far less on what government should do, and much more on what consumers and producers should do--to help democracy avoid the perils, and realize the promise, of the Internet.