Authoritarian Tech

Social Media

On social media, millions of regular citizens have a voice. So do paid trolls and government propagandists.


Today’s most innovative police states owe more to Mark Zuckerberg than to Joseph Stalin.

News Briefs
27 November, 2019
Sale of .org domain draws protests

We’ve heard (and written) much in the past few years about the way that governments, through the doctrine of “cyber sovereignty,” are increasingly trying to exercise political power over internet content. But it’s important not to lose sight of another power grab: much of the internet is controlled by private interests that shape it to

Inside the China Cables: Video surveillance, confessions and ‘de-extremification’ in Xinjiang

  China is leaking. Details of how Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government runs its surveillance and detention policies in its north-west region, Xinjiang, have emerged via a cache of secret documents. The files were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and collectively published by a group of journalists from 15 media partners.

‘Lash curl’ TikTok video about China’s detention of Muslims goes viral

A TikTok video of a young Asian-American woman curling her lashes while discussing China’s ongoing persecution of its Muslim minority population has gone viral. The user, Feroza Aziz, 17, who says she is an Afghan-American political activist from New Jersey, made three videos to try to raise awareness about Xinjiang. In her videos, she explains

22 November, 2019
In many parts of the world, internet freedom is in decline

A new report says online election interference and increased government surveillance on social media is worsening the state of digital rights across the world. According to this year’s Freedom on the Net report, published by the U.S. based technology watchdog and think tank Freedom House, global internet freedoms declined for the ninth consecutive year, with

13 November, 2019
Deepfake videos of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn emerge – with a stark message

Two fake videos of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his opponent Jeremy Corbyn doing the seemingly impossible — supporting each other — have been posted online ahead of the snap UK elections in December. The videos, called deepfakes, were released by Future Advocacy, a think tank that endorses responsible policies around the use of

Surveillance is a form of information warfare, says Shoshana Zuboff

At Coda, we try to “connect the dots” between the issues we cover, but our two channels — disinformation and authoritarian tech — have always seemed distinct. When we think of disinformation and information warfare, we usually think of government-sponsored deception; but Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, describes it differently. “Information

23 October, 2019
UK investigation reveals Russian hackers impersonated Iranian hackers

What makes cyberwarfare so unlike traditional war is that it’s sometimes much harder to know — much less prove — who attacked you. This creates a situation of relative impunity, where the ingenuity and impact of cyberattacks grows ever greater, but deterrence is always a step behind. Of course, there are certain ways you can

18 October, 2019
Breaking up Facebook is getting traction in politics

A few years ago, it might have seemed unlikely that a disagreement about content moderation would be a memorable moment in the U.S. presidential debate. But amidst the techlash and a Twitter-happy American president, that’s exactly what happened earlier this week. It was kind of an awkward moment in Westerville, Ohio, though, where Senator Kamala

16 October, 2019
China’s digital Little Red Book could access all your data

In China, disinformation and authoritarian tech have created a digital hydra in the form of an app called Study the Great Nation. The app is a propaganda tool that encourages users to play games and keep updated on President Xi Jinping’s ideology. It’s been dubbed the digital version of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book. But

3 October, 2019
New app brings facial recognition to in-person networking

Let’s say you’re attending a Silicon Valley reception and find yourself talking to an important-seeming person; you begin to wonder: am I just wasting my time, or am I talking to an investor who can bankroll my dumb startup idea? Well, now there is an app that can answer your question. If you download AngelFace,

26 September, 2019
In a partial victory for Google, court limits ‘right to be forgotten’ to the EU

When is the last time you Googled yourself? Did you like what you saw? If you’re in Europe, you could get some of those bad links removed from the results. But it’s long been unclear if that rule applies globally. Now, after years of debate, the European Court of Justice made a decision on Tuesday:

20 September, 2019
Inside Ecuador’s massive data leak

Earlier this week, the publication ZDNet and trade publication vpnMentor revealed that Ecuador’s entire population — including former citizen Julian Assange — had highly personal data leaked because a government contractor did almost nothing to keep it secure. After the report came out, Ecuador officials opened an investigation, arrested the head of the data company,