The First Amendment protects Americans’ freedom of speech and assembly. Unfortunately, at various times in US history, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have disregarded these protections, targeting people or groups based on political viewpoint, religious affiliation, or participation in lawful protests. The advent of the internet as the new “town square,” has opened a new front in the battle to protect free speech and assembly, and new technologies make it easier for the government to track our communications and movements both on and offline, inhibiting our willingness to dissent.
Undercover agents have infiltrated law-abiding activist groups, police have beaten and tear-gassed protesters at peaceful protests, and people are considered suspect merely because of their real or perceived Islamic faith. On the internet, police and intelligence agencies monitor social media and speech that should be protected by the First Amendment is considered evidence of “material support for terrorism.”
Dissent is being criminalized by DHS Terror Threat Assessments that name environmentalists, practicing Muslims or people with Ron Paul bumper stickers as potential terrorists, by legislation that conflates activism with terrorism (as in the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), and by over-policing at protests and restrictive “free speech zones.”
When Exactly Does Something On the Web Cross the Line From Being a Non-Offensive Word Or Picture Into a Hate-Crime? And Who Gets To Decide?
The connections between online speech and future offline crime is hard to draw with certainty and consistency and shouldn’t be the focus of police departments.
In Powerful Speech to UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur Warns That Governments Across the World are Cracking Down on Civil Society
“Unless there is renewed commitment from the world’s leaders, away from fear and control of their own people, and toward respecting the dignity of all, the situation will remain precarious for civil society globally,” the UN expert said.
Report: Law Enforcement Face Recognition is Unregulated and In Many Instances Out Of Control. But Here’s What You Can Do About It.
Math isn’t colorblind and algorithms don’t care about free speech, but police and the FBI are treating face recognition technology as if it is divorced from the realities of centuries of repressive policing.
Not allowing the government to control the narrative when it comes it the suppression of the dissent is what a free press is supposed to do. The attempted prosecution of Amy Goodman and possible prosecution of Deia Schlosberg is about reestablishing government control of this narrative.
The response by North Dakota and Morton County to the Water Protectors highlights several very serious issues plaguing our country. It brings to the forefront the legacy of colonialism and racism, that has culminated in the disrespecting of the sovereignty of indigenous people, as well as, the use of state violence against those who try to retain their sovereignty. It is part of a larger trend of law enforcement viewing democracy as the enemy and responding to protest with military style gear and tactics. Finally, it demonstrates the willingness of the state to trample on dissent in order to defend corporate profits. “