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Censorship and surveillance in the digital age: The technological challenges for academics

Tanczer, Leonie Maria, McConville, Ryan and Maynard, Peter 2016. Censorship and surveillance in the digital age: The technological challenges for academics. Journal of Global Security Studies 1 (4) , pp. 346-355. 10.1093/jogss/ogw016

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The “Snowden leaks” and censorship methods used during the Arab Spring have brought warranted attention to technologically supported censorship and surveillance (Bauman et al. 2014; Deibert and Crete-Nishihata 2012, 344). The public is now aware how digital tools and information are prone to tracing, interception, and suppression. Processes of eavesdropping and information collection (i.e., surveillance) are often interrelated with processes of removal, displacement, and restriction of material or speech (i.e., censorship). Both are often enshrouded in secrecy, leaving censorship and surveillance techniques open to abuses (Setty 2015). Digital censorship and surveillance may also constitute a threat to academic freedom. Technologically supported censorship and surveillance impinge upon scholars’ ability to conduct unobstructed inquiry. The increasing reliance on the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) to collect data or distribute findings has only exacerbated this threat. Digital tools and data allow for: (1) the easier confiscation or destruction of research (Cyranoski 2008, 871; Gellman 2015); (2) the manipulation of information; or (3) the control and prevention of access to information (Fishman 2010). Digital surveillance creates a securitized climate and leads to chilling effects. The field of security studies is certainly not immune to these effects. We aim to systematically explore the methods of digital censorship and surveillance, as well as techniques to resist them. The article is split into three parts. The first section discusses why academia—and especially security studies scholars—should engage in debates on technological information control. The second section outlines how the digital tools used by academics can be subject to censorship, and how this affects the profession. The final section examines what to do against digital censorship and surveillance, and explores whether cryptographic circumvention methods should be included within academic teaching and scholarship. As part of this discussion, we hope to foster a debate about the legal and technical protections for researchers, and engender a critical reflection about digital security.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Computer Science & Informatics
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 2057-3170
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2023 12:15

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