Evgeny Morozov has a book coming out later this year about the Internet and democracy in which he takes a critical look at techno-utopianism. In the WSJ today he sets out his stall.
our debate about the Internet's role in democratization—increasingly dominated by techno-utopianism—is in dire need of moderation, for there are at least as many reasons to be skeptical. Ironically, the role that the Internet played in the recent events in Iran shows us why: Revolutionary change that can topple strong authoritarian regimes requires a high degree of centralization among their opponents. The Internet does not always help here. One can have "organizing without organizations"—the phrase is in the subtitle of "Here Comes Everybody," Clay Shirky's best-selling 2008 book about the power of social media—but one can't have revolutions without revolutionaries.
Contrary to the utopian rhetoric of social media enthusiasts, the Internet often makes the jump from deliberation to participation even more difficult, thwarting collective action under the heavy pressure of never-ending internal debate. This is what may explain the impotence of recent protests in Iran: Thanks to the sociability and high degree of decentralization afforded by the Internet, Iran's Green Movement has been split into so many competing debate chambers—some of them composed primarily of net-savvy Iranians in the diaspora—that it couldn't collect itself on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The Green Movement may have simply drowned in its own tweets.