It’s been a bit of a long running gag among internet users that everything you do online and on social media is being monitored by some creepy, Orwellian program inappropriately wielded by our government. It’s a terrifying thought but one we brush off because, well, that’s just insane.
But is it?
According to a report from “independent watchdog organisation” Freedom House, titled ‘2019 Freedom on the Net‘, apparently 40 of 65 countries it studied has implemented some form of “advanced social media surveillance programs” and their use is accelerating at an alarming rate.
But perhaps the most terrifying finding in the report is the number of internet users currently being monitored right now as we speak. Of the billions of internet users around the world, “89 percent” or “nearly 3 billion” people fall under some 1984-esque surveillance program.
Yes, you should be terrified because that means anything you post or tweet on social media is likely being monitored by your government.
Freedom House’s report covered more than just governments watching your internet habits and most of it doesn’t bode well for this whole freedom thing.
The report states that digital election interference is a very serious issue happening right now, particularly in authoritarian countries that like wielding a big censorship hammer, such as Russia and China. The U.S. in particular has been highlighted as a country that’s seen its “freedom score” drop dramatically ever since Combover Caligula became the U.S. Cheeto-in-Chief.
Not only do the methods employed to monitor internet users sound like something ripped out of a sci-fi movie – Iran as a 42,000-strong army of volunteers who monitor online speech, China has a similar system and a surveillance program that monitors over 200 million people – what governments are doing with all this data collected is downright spine-chilling.
The report states that 47 of the 65 countries studied “featured arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech” and even supposed “free” countries like the UK and U.S. monitored activists and those folks who opposed each respective government’s policies.
So all those jokes about being watched? Yeah, your suspicions were mostly correct after all.
There’s a silver lining to all of this though: Australia is faring pretty well on most fronts when it comes to freedom of speech and the whole surveillance thing as there’s no monitoring system of any sort in our country, but there are worrying signs that things could go awry if we don’t stay vigilant.
The entire report is a lengthy 29 pages and will likely send you into a bit of a funk, but it is a must-read in order to understand what is going on with internet surveillance right now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go burn every electronic device I own before getting off the grid.