Once upon a time, the internet was seen as a force for good. This is no longer the case. While the internet and digital platforms can still be used to speak out and organise against authoritarianism, our digital world is now a dangerous space for those who dare to criticise power from all sides. State and non-state actors actively target critical and oppositional voices, and networked surveillance is keeping a close eye on dissenters and activists. Peer-to-peer surveillance is growing, where ordinary citizens police those who deviate from government policies.
Digital authoritarianism has accelerated over the past two years. The panic of COVID-19 has driven governments to devise ways of managing their citizens and controlling information and activities using digital technologies. Big and small tech companies, law enforcement agencies, and other vested stakeholders have worked closely with governments to exploit the opportunity to expand their power, control, and profits.
Technologies are being created to track our movements, record who we come into contact with, and segment us based on our health and vaccination status. There is little transparency on how these technologies work, and public-private partnerships provide cover for accountability.
Through diverse Asia-Pacific perspectives, Pandemic of Control aims to address the rise of digital authoritarianism by raising awareness, sparking conversation, and encouraging action.