The global struggle for free expression is the focus of a new partnership between Vice News and Jigsaw (formerly Google Ideas, the firm’s think tank and technology incubator). A new documentary series, Blackout, will examine threats to freedom of expression in Pakistan, Venezuela, Thailand, Belarus, and Eritrea. The five episodes will be broadcast bi-weekly on Vicenews.com over ten weeks, starting in June.
“Our mission at Jigsaw is to build tools that protect vulnerable populations from some of the most profound global security threats, from confronting extremism, to thwarting online censorship, to mitigating the threats associated with digital attacks,” said Jared Cohen (right), President of Jigsaw at Alphabet Inc. “Technology can be among our greatest weapons in the fight against oppression, and we hope that this series helps viewers understand the importance of protecting free expression and its global impact.”
“It’s obvious that we are living in a period of unprecedented ‘liberation’ of information,” said Vice chief creative officer Eddy Moretti. “The revolution created by our digital media platforms and is truly awe-inspiring, and this ethos of liberating and democratizing communications extends — ideally — to everyone on the planet. But this radical freedom is seen by many as a threat to existing orders, to existing power structures, to status quo writ large.”
Across the globe, citizen freedoms are under threat often in the name of security, notes Raza Rumi, a scholar in residence at Ithaca College and a non-residential fellow with the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program at the National Endowment for Democracy. Mass surveillance and violations of privacy are now becoming the new “normal,” he writes for the Center for International Media Assistance:
Pakistan’s case is no exception and the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) has led to a robust criticism and resistance by human rights groups, digital activists, civil society, and sections of the media. Its punitive measures are clear attempts to undermine freedom of press, freedom of expression, and the right to use the Internet. Legal experts and IT industry practitioners have also criticized it.