The Twitter page of Elon Musk is seen on the screen of a computer in Sausalito, Calif., April 25, 2022 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Two developments in the past week conspired to put the polarized debate over free speech and government regulation of social media in sharp focus. Last Saturday, the European Union reached a final deal on its Digital Services Act, which will hold the major social media platforms operating in the bloc responsible for removing illegal content and disinformation. And on Monday, Twitter reached a deal with Elon Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” to purchase the publicly traded platform and take it private. The EU legislation responds to the growing popular unease with the unintended effects social media has had on […]

A protester covered by an EU flag takes part in a demonstration to call on the European Union to stop buying Russian oil and gas, outside EU headquarters in Brussels, April 29, 2022 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Editor’s note: This will be Candace Rondeaux’s final weekly column for World Politics Review. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Candace for her sharp analysis, compelling prose and passionate commitment to putting people at the heart of international security commentary. It’s been a pleasure offering her work to WPR’s readers for the past three years. We wish her the best of luck in her multiple endeavors moving forward. Russia’s move this week to cut off natural gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria, combined with growing fears that Moldova could be drawn into President Vladimir Putin’s militaristic machinations, invites a thought experiment: What […]

Displaced people watch a helicopter carrying U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peace Operations Jean Pierre Lacroix land in Bunia, eastern Congo, Feb. 22, 2022 (AP photo by Moses Sawasawa).

The seven member states of the East African Community have agreed to create a regional military force to be deployed to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The bloc’s leaders announced the decision at a special meeting on Congo held last week in Nairobi at the request of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who currently serves at the EAC’s rotating chairperson. The bloc also appealed to the African Union and the United Nations for support for the initiative, which is designed to end decades of bloodshed caused by militant activity and bring peace and stability to eastern Congo, a call the two bodies appear to […]

Francia Marquez raises her arm next to presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, at an event presenting her as his running mate in Bogota, Colombia, March 23, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

TORIBIO, Colombia—At night, the hills around Toribio twinkle with the grow lights used to both illuminate and heat the marijuana plantations that dominate the local economy. Laid out in rectangular grids, these plots are a reminder that the fertile soils of this mountainous territory in Colombia’s southern province of Cauca are both a blessing and a curse. The local Nasa communities, key actors in the mass protests that rocked Colombia last year, cultivate a wide range of crops in an attempt to find alternatives to drug production, but marijuana and coca remain the mainstay of the local economy. “We have […]

Mark Zuckerberg—then the CEO of Facebook, which has since been renamed Meta—delivers a speech about the metaverse during a virtual event, Oct. 28, 2021 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

“Society cannot exist without Law,” the 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley famously declared. Aristotle similarly remarked, “Law is order, and good law is good order.” Both men would have been horrified at the prospect of a new, virtual society that potentially lies outside the scope of any system of law, save for contractual provisions imposed by its commercially motivated, all-seeing creator. Nonetheless, in a recent survey, only 36 percent of Americans said that government-enacted regulations would be an important factor in their decision over whether or not to use the metaverse. Life in a virtual reality or augmented […]

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, left, speaks during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, prior to their working lunch at the Elysee palace in Paris, April 29, 2021 (AP photo by Lewis Joly).

As the world held its breath for the results of France’s presidential election on Sunday, another pivotal vote took place elsewhere in the European Union. Voters in Slovenia chose a new government, and there, as in France, the result was a harsh blow to the far right. An election in Slovenia, a small country of just 2 million people, may seem like a minor sideshow on the geopolitical stage, but its significance should not be underestimated. It’s undeniable that a far-right victory in France could have proven calamitous for the EU and for the prospects of democracy around the world. […]

President of the European Council Charles Michel, left, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrive for a press conference in Versailles, March 11, 2022 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

Many in Brussels are breathing a sigh of relief this week following French President Emmanuel Macron’s reelection in Sunday’s presidential runoff. But now that fears of a Marine Le Pen presidency can be put to rest, eyes are quickly turning to the French legislative elections scheduled for June. The result of those polls will determine just how powerful Macron will be at the European Union level over the next five years. But one thing is clear: The French president currently faces little competition for the title of the EU’s most influential leader. Since France took over the EU’s six-month rotating […]

A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company,
near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, Aug. 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Sebastian
Scheiner).

The international trade in digital surveillance tools has long been controversial, particularly their sale to repressive governments that have allegedly used them to target dissidents and journalists. That controversy reached a new level last year, when a handful of Israeli cyber firms were accused of selling highly sophisticated spyware to authoritarian regimes. One firm, in particular, the NSO Group, became the focus of an international investigative consortium, composed of 17 leading media organizations, including the Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and Haaretz, as well as Amnesty International and a media nonprofit. The consortium’s dozens of articles detailing its investigation were further amplified […]

A woman holds up a banner during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia, April 10, 2022 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

In the fall of 2012, as Syria plunged into civil war and the Eurozone crisis generated panic across global markets, a parliamentary election in Ukraine signaled trouble ahead to those who were paying attention. The results that trickled out on Oct. 28, 2012, indicated that then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions had secured a strong position through dubious constitutional maneuvers and ballot manipulation. In the aftermath of the elections, Yanukovych’s corrupt and Russia-friendly clique tried to bend Ukraine to their whims. The simmering discontent among large parts of the population over Yanukovych’s power grab was the first escalation in political […]

A worker in a protective suit swabs a woman for a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Beijing, April 27, 2022 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Wary of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, officials in Beijing ordered 20 million residents across nearly a dozen districts to undergo mass testing earlier this week, after dozens of new coronavirus cases were detected in the Chinese capital. Though authorities have stopped short of confining residents to their homes for now, fears of an impending lockdown like the one imposed in Shanghai have prompted a wave of panic buying across the city. City residents have stocked up on food and other essential supplies, stripping the shelves of supermarkets bare. “My colleagues in Shanghai learned the lesson the hard way—they are […]

A demonstrator holds a poster reading “Peace for Ukraine” during a protest against the Russian invasion, Almaty, Kazakhstan, March 6, 2022 (AP photo by Vladimir Tretyakov).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is upending the geopolitical calculations of states around the world. The fallout is especially complex for the post-Soviet states of Central Asia, which maintain extensive economic, political, cultural and other ties to both Russia and Ukraine. While Central Asia is far from the front lines of the ongoing war, and therefore less directly impacted than states like Moldova or Georgia, its leaders also face difficult decisions. Independent for three decades, the Central Asian states remain dependent to varying degrees on Russia as a security provider and economic partner, and as a source of political support. Their […]

Sri Lankans hold up their mobile phone torches during a vigil outside the president’s office to condemn police shootings of protesters, Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 19, 2022 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

The ongoing economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka demonstrates more than ever that geopolitical rivalry fosters myopic decision-making, and that peace is a prerequisite for intergenerational justice. Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented emergency. Decades of financial mismanagement by governments dominated by the family of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the  Russia-Ukraine war, have now left the country on the brink of economic collapse. For the first time since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka’s government announced that it will be defaulting on all $51 billion of its sovereign debt, as it seeks an urgent bailout […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by John Muchucha).

The government of Rwanda announced earlier this month what it described as a “migration and economic development partnership” with the United Kingdom, in which the U.K. claims it would send migrants who had reached British territory to Rwanda for processing of their asylum claims for possible settlement in the U.K. But in practical terms, the asylum seekers will be transported to Rwanda permanently. Almost immediately after the agreement was announced, it came under fire, with critics calling London’s role in it a legally dubious violation of international humanitarian norms that treats human beings like commodities, all to help the U.K. “outsource its refugee problems.” But […]

An anti-government protester waves a Lebanese flag in front of a burning barricade on a road leading to the parliament building, Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

The events of recent years have made it increasingly clear that the assault on human rights and democracy in the West and the Middle East are not merely parallel phenomena—they are directly connected. As both regions experience an intense surge of authoritarianism as well as the resulting popular resistance to it, it’s imperative for sound analysis and policymaking to identify the dynamics linking today’s crises across national borders and geographic regions. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with exceptionalism and the limitations of regional frameworks, after decades of writing about the Middle East and U.S. policy there. And […]

A sun halo is seen in the skies above Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Whether April is truly the cruelest month, as T.S. Elliott wrote, is up for debate. What is undeniable is the poignancy of springtime in the age of global warming, when each year, the planet bursts forth with life, oblivious to what is in store. As the latest Earth Month draws to a close, it seems natural to take stock of where humanity is now in its struggle against climate change and, just maybe, take solace in a possible lifeline. The latest assessment reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, make clear what we are up against. The […]

A ripped electoral poster of French President Emmanuel Macron is displayed in Lyon, France, April 22, 2022 (AP photo by Laurent Cipriani).

Unlike European Union directives, which must be published in the languages of all the bloc’s member states, the sighs of relief heard across much of Europe at the outcome of yesterday’s French presidential election needed no translation. The suspense had already receded in the two weeks since the first-round ballot, as polls showed French President Emmanuel Macron widening his lead over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. But with Macron’s reelection now sealed, the sense of having dodged a bullet in Brussels, the capitals of Europe, Washington and of course Paris is no less palpable. The implications of a Le Pen victory […]

Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Wali Sabawoon).

A month ago, when all eyes were on the war in Ukraine, the Taliban quietly reneged on their promise to put school-age girls back in classrooms. This followed a six-month period in which women faced crippling restrictions on their employment, freedom of movement, dress, access to healthcare and participation in sports, plus gender-based violence, torture and arrest if they protested. But the international community’s initial response—to pull humanitarian aid, for instance—threatens to make matters even worse. Since the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021, U.S. government agencies and representatives, like the wider international donor community, have been struggling to determine how best to support women’s human rights in […]

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