Digital Hell. The inner-workings of the “like”

Original title: L’enfer numérique. Voyage au bout d’un like

Publication Date:

September 2021



Original language and publisher

French | Les Liens Qui Liberent

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia

Territories Sold

World English (Scribe)
Italy (Lluis)
Japan (Hara Shobo)
South Korea (Galapagos)
Turkey (Kültur)


Society, Technology

Number of copies sold:


Digital Hell. The inner-workings of the “like”

Original title: L’enfer numérique. Voyage au bout d’un like


‘‘Did you know that the global digital industry’s water, materials and energy footprint is three times that of a country like France or England? The biggest enemy of the climate is the screen, and Digital Hell is an essential book.’’ — Sabine Delanglade, Les Echos

‘‘Digital Hell reveals the exorbitant environmental cost of the so-called ecological digital revolution revealing the shams of the green transition and the ambivalence of the “climate generation”. This is landmark book.’’ — Alexandre Devecchio, Le Figaro

‘‘Indispensable.’’ — Les Inrockuptibles

A gripping new investigation into the underbelly of digital technology, which addresses the pressing question of the carbon footprint it leaves behind. In a sort of news thriller, the author reveals not only how costly the virtual world is but how damaging it is to the environment.

Digital technology now represents 10% of the electricity produced in the world and gives off almost twice as much carbon dioxide as the airplane industry. The paradox between a dematerialized world and the construction of more and larger facilities to run the growing virtual world is becoming alarmingly apparent.

We have also debunked the use of technology and artificial intelligence to reduce our impact on the environment. The power drain and the resources needed to put these all-digital systems into place and run them is exponential. The idea we could reduce pollution is as much of a mirage as a forest in the desert.

Masdar in Abu Dhabi is the poster smart city. It is a pioneer in eco-friendly digital technology, situated on the banks of the Lulea, which supplies the data centers with power. The datacenters stock data from Lapland, from graphite mines in Mashan, China and from the Estonian government (which went all-digital). This investigation delves into and exposes the dark secrets of the digital world: its environmental impact, the economic stakes and geopolitical disputes at hand on the path towards an all-digital world.

Some telling numbers:

  • If digital technology were a country, it would be the third highest consumer of electricity behind China and the United States.
  • An e-mail with a big attachment consumes as much energy as a lightbulb left on for 24 hours.
  • Every year, streaming technology generates as much greenhouse gas as Spain – close to 1% of global emissions.
  • The video of Gangnam Style was viewed around 1.7 billion times, using about 297 gigawatt hours, equivalent to that of a city with a population of 100,000.
  • One Google search uses as much electricity as a lightbulb left on for 35 minutes.
  • A broadband box uses as much power as a refrigerator.
  • All of humanity produces five exabytes of data per day, equivalent to what we consumed from the very beginnings of the internet to 2003. An amount that would fill 10 million Blu-ray discs which, piled up, would be as high as the Eiffel Tower.
  • Without knowing, each of us generates about 150 gigabytes of data per day, enough to fill the memory of 9 16g iPhones.

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