In their fight against the coronavirus, some governments are introducing digital surveillance and data collection tools that could pose a lasting threat to citizens’ rights, according to a new report by research institute Freedom House.
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.
Nowhere has that approach been more apparent than in China, according to Freedom House, which rated the country worst for internet freedom for a sixth year in a row.
Since the coronavirus outbreak emerged in Wuhan last December, China has deployed every tool in its internet control arsenal — from digital surveillance, to automated censorship, and systematic arrests — to
A number of voting rights groups are calling for Florida’s voter registration cutoff to be extended after the state’s registration portal experienced outages in the hours before the deadline.
Some Floridians attempting to access RegistertovoteFlorida.gov found slow responses or error messages on Monday evening, with some reports on social media of people attempting for hours to register to vote.
Florida’s deadline to register in order to be eligible to vote in the 2020 general election was midnight Monday. Paper applications that were mailed in had to be postmarked by Monday.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU of Florida and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter on Monday night to Brad McVay, the Florida Department of State’s general counsel, pushing for the deadline to be extended until midnight Tuesday.
“We are contemplating further action,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, when asked for an update Tuesday morning. “We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to stand up for voters impacted.”
A spokesman for the Department of State, which manages the website, has not yet responded to two voicemails and an email sent Monday evening and Tuesday morning asking for more information about what happened with the website and whether the deadline would be extended.
Brad Ashwell, Florida state director of voting rights group All Voting is Local, said his organization was hearing reports well into Monday night that there were problems with the voter registration website. Ashwell said different groups are debating how long to ask for the deadline to be extended. He noted that there would