Asia Undercovered Special: Technology and Digital Authoritarianism
Asia is at the center of innovations in digital technologies – often to the detriment of democracy, human rights, and press freedom. We’ve focused on technology issues before – in fact, our first Media Analysis, released last year, was focused on media coverage of Chinese apps when bans on WeChat and TikTok were being considered in Washington DC. While China’s digital authoritarianism gets (well deserved) attention, other issues in the region are often ignored, despite their impact.
In this special issue, we highlights stories on how technology is being used, increasingly, by governments around the region to expand surveillance and, often, entrench discrimination or limit the ability of media and civil society to report on abuses.
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Creeping digital authoritarianism
China’s social credit system – which gives scores to people based on a broad range of factors – sounds like the de-facto definition of digital totalitarianism. The reality, reports Rui Zhong in this in-depth piece for Coda Story, is both more complicated, but also, more terrifying, as she calls the system a “more invasive form of social media.”
Meanwhile, China’s initial innovation – the Great Firewall – is increasingly being mimicked elsewhere, as internet shutdowns, censorship, and filtering are proliferating across the region. Even India, a democracy, is not immune. Following a widespread internet shutdown in Kashmir in 2019, the country has been working to build it’s own firewall to censor and control digital information (Subhashish Panigrahi, Global Voices).