The world will face more widespread and intensified surveillance, but this time it could be framed as something for our own good, for the good of humanity.
Just as contemporary activist movements rely on platforms, so too does authoritarian populism. Platforms have played such a significant role in the success of this current wave of global authoritarianism that one might even call it platform authoritarianism. Where Trump had Twitter, President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil had WhatsApp; more specifically, Bolsonaro rose to power through a regressive movement that lived not just in the streets but was organized and composed on countless WhatsApp groups — a contemporary, more networked version of the classic revolutionary cell structure, perhaps. The attempted genocide of the Rohingya people by the military in Myanmar was also partly organized and encouraged on Facebook. And, more mundanely, platforms are used routinely by specialist data analysis groups — whether they are private companies such as the infamous Cambridge Analytica, or state-sponsored, like the “Bear” groups linked to Russian security intelligence — to attack, undermine and even hijack democratic systems, from national elections to referenda, using enormous quantities of intimate user data for targeted political advertising, misinformation and voter suppression.
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