The rise of soft authoritarianism

The mere knowledge of mass surveillance will have a chilling effect on free speech, opposition and an open society. Even if no politician or bureaucrat will say it out loud — this might be a very calculated side effect of modern Big Brotherism.

In UK schools an add-on to its existing Education Pro digital classroom management tool will be used to monitor schoolchildren, bringing the teachers attention to use of “radicalisation keywords”.

“The keywords list, which was developed in collaboration with the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism organisation that is closely aligned with the government, consists of more than 1,000 trigger terms including “apostate”, “jihadi” and “Islamism”, and accompanying definitions.”

This might flag any pupil working with fully legitime school work as a potential terrorist. The list also includes terms used in a “far right” context and names of groups and individuals defined as “terrorists or extremists”. And, of course, no one will know what words and terms will be on the list in the future. That will be up to tomorrows politicians and bureaucrats to decide. We can only hope that they are fair and decent people. All of them.

“Teachers can also save screenshots or video of a student’s screen which, Impero suggests, could provide “key evidence” to be shared with Channel, the government’s counter-radicalisation programme for young people. The software also features a “confide” function, allowing students to report concerns about classmates anonymously.”

So, British schoolchildren will have to think carefully about what they write in the future. They also must be aware of the fact that other students might act as informants. It is not difficult to see how this will create a climate of fear and uneasiness. (And new forms of bullying.)

Read more: UK: Keyword warning software in schools raises red flag »

And the Chinese have taken soft authoritarianism and informant culture one step further: There your credit score is now affected by your political activities and opinions — and those of your friends. This will apply to everything from your online shopping to your possibility to get a visa for travelling abroad.

This is nightmarish. If you stand up for your ideas, opinions and human rights in China, you will not only put yourself in harms way — but also your friends and your relatives.

This might be a much more effective way to stifle dissent than using classic tools of oppression.

Read more: In China, Your Credit Score Is Now Affected By Your Political Opinions – And Your Friends’ Political Opinions »

The modern orwellian society seems to be turning out to be more orwellian than George Orwell could ever have imagined.


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