Online Activism, Digital Domination and the Rule of Trolls / Dr. Tamar Megiddo

Date: 

Wed, 01/01/2020 - 15:00 to 16:30

Location: 

I-CORE – The Center for Empirical Studies of Decision Making and the Law, the Faculty of Law, Mt. Scopus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

Tamar Megiddo

This article maps and categorizes the various technological tools that governments use to curb civil society and political opposition activists. Exploiting activists’ dependence on cyber space and social networks, governments gather information about activists; disrupt communication channels; flood online conversation in order to drown out the opposition; rely on information gathered through disreputable means to deploy the state’s coercive power, and mobilize digital militias to bully activists online. I argue, first, that rather than focus on surveillance, these practices should be evaluated in the aggregate, and conceptualized as a set of digital control measures. Furthermore, as highlighted by the deliberately public nature of activism, the harm in such measures exceeds the harms to individual privacy (even broadly construed), or the ensuing chilling effects on free speech or assembly. Rather, these control measures constitute a major affront to human freedom. Finally, governments’ reliance on digital militias enables them to sidestep the limits of their legitimate authority, thus posing a grave threat to the rule of law.