New York Times defends the use of surveillance tools

NYT:

How Investigative Journalism Flourished in Hostile Russia

“The Russian language has introduced a few words that in recent years have been widely used and misused in English: disinformation, kompromat, Novichok.”

“But the one that blows my mind is “probiv.” It’s drawn from the word that means “to pierce” — or to enter something into a search bar. Today, it refers to the practice by which anyone can buy, for a couple of dollars on the social media app Telegram or hundreds on a dark web marketplace, the call records, cellphone geolocation or air travel records of anyone in Russia you want to track. Probiv is purchased by jealous spouses or curious business partners, and criminals of various sorts. But it has also been used recently, and explosively, by journalists and political activists, overlapping categories in Russia, where the chief opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, often makes use of the tools of investigative journalism.” (…)

“There’s a tendency in parts of the American media right now to reflexively decry the rise of alternative voices and open platforms on social media, seeing them solely as vectors for misinformation or tools of Donald J. Trump. Russia is a potent reminder of the other side of that story, the power of these new platforms to challenge one of the world’s most corrupt governments.”

NYT seems to forget how the optimism at the beginning of the “Arab Spring” turned into pessimism when dictators learned how to beat online resistance. The same “dictator’s learning curve” will probably occur in Russia today. As long as there is no real massive grassroots level resistance, as seen during the end of the Soviet empire, it’s relatively unlikely that tech innovations will be a “quick fix” in favor of democracy. When the underlying cultural and economic problems are not solved, a new dictator or just chaos will emerge if some fancy tech tool makes it possible to topple a weak tyrant in a hybrid regime.

Here is my general assessment regarding surveillance in Russia:

Putin’s regime does not yet have the same level of Fusion AI surveillance as China, and maybe Russia will perhaps never become that extreme, but some type of 1984 is most likely inevitable in Russia. Fighting surveillance in Russia is probably a lost cause. Kremlin will not allow a new regime collapse. They have learned after the fall of the Soviet Union. Kremlin will fight, like it did in Chechnya, to maintain the borders and stability of Russia.

On the other hand: overpopulation, climate changes, global resource depletion, and shadow interferences during Cold War 2 have led to chaos on a planetary scale that might suddenly trigger changes in Kremlin, but Fusion AI surveillance will probably not go away in Russia. How do I know that? Well, look at how difficult it is to mobilize resistance to surveillance in the West.

Fusion AI surveillance in Russia will probably secure the power of cultural conservatives in that country.

Fusion AI surveillance in America will probably secure the power of woke libertines in that country.

So if you are woke ultra-liberal it’s understandable that you will emotionally feel more at home in the totalitarian surveillance regime of a Brave New World in America and Europe (if nobody stops Big Tech in the West).

Similarly, if you are a moderate or radical cultural conservative it’s understandable that you will emotionally feel more at home in the totalitarian surveillance regime of a 1984 Russia.

If the only “binary” choice is between 1) a libertine surveillance regime in the West, or 2) a culturally conservative surveillance regime in Russia, then I personally will feel more at home in the latter, though I would have always preferred an alternative third option instead: a constitutional democracy based on moderate liberality and moderate conservatism, in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke, like the free democracy that Norway had in the 1970s.

Especially after Facebook’s treatment of Australia it should not be controversial at all to claim it’s best if all nations, including Russia, ban all Big Tech and Big Entertainment propaganda from the American coasts and instead support free and decentralized services like Gab and Minds for example.

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