The news: Global internet freedom has declined for the 10th year in a row as governments use the coronavirus pandemic as cover to restrict people’s rights, according to a report by the think tank Freedom House. Its researchers assessed 65 countries, accounting for 87% of internet users worldwide. The report covers the period from June 2019 to May 2020, but some key changes took place when the pandemic struck.
The pandemic effect: In at least 20 countries, the pandemic was cited as a reason to introduce sweeping new restrictions on speech and arrest online critics. In 28, governments blocked websites or forced outlets, users, or platforms to censor information in order to suppress critical reporting, unfavorable health statistics, or other content related to the coronavirus. In at least 45 of the countries studied, people were arrested as a result of their online posts about covid-19.
The Freedom on the Net 2020 report, an assessment of 65 countries released Wednesday, found that the pandemic has accelerated a decline in free speech and privacy on the internet for the tenth consecutive year, and accused some governments of using the virus as a pretext to crack down on critical speech.
“The pandemic is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the internet is becoming less and less free,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, which is funded by the US government. “Without adequate safeguards for privacy and the rule of law, these technologies can be easily repurposed for political repression.”
Amid the pandemic, internet connectivity has become a lifeline to essential information and services — from education platforms, to health care portals, employment opportunities and social interactions. But state and nonstate actors are also exploiting the crisis to erode freedoms online.
Today’s security threats have expanded in scope and seriousness. There can now be millions — or even billions — of dollars at risk when information security isn’t handled properly.
Members of the intelligence-sharing alliance Five Eyes, along with government representatives for Japan and India, have published a statement over the weekend calling on tech companies to come up with a solution for law enforcement to access end-to-end encrypted communications.
The statement is the alliance’s latest effort to get tech companies to agree to encryption backdoors.
The Five Eyes alliance, comprised of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, have made similar calls to tech giants in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Just like before, government officials claim tech companies have put themselves in a corner by incorporating end-to-end encryption (E2EE)
The idea that the government is a low-tech place where projects move slowly has chilled the willingness of lawmakers to fund ambitious, tech-driven projects within the government. And it’s stifled the movement of talented people into government service roles.
In a conversation at Fast Company‘s Innovation Festival Thursday, ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, and Booz Allen Hamilton chief innovation officer Susan Penfield argued that the government needs to embark on a charm offensive to prove that big-time, game-changing innovation isn’t strictly confined to the private sector.
According to Penfield of Booz Allen Hamilton, the government doesn’t entirely deserve its low-tech reputation.
“There’s amazing work going on every day, and it really takes leadership . . . from the federal sector to really tout the things they’re doing,” Booz Allens’s Penfield said. “If you think about the government, they’re
Approval ratings of political leaders surged in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the days and weeks with high numbers of new COVID-19 cases there were also large boosts to leader approval. These results support a “rally ’round the flag” phenomenon in which citizens rally around their leaders during times of crisis and may have voting implications.
Data analyzed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore reveal world leaders, on average, experienced a 14-point boost in approval.
Citizens tend to support their leaders in times of national crisis, such as war or terrorist attack, but the new study is the first to identify a rally effect during a health crisis — one that’s been deadly and destructive across the globe.