The existence of surveillance state breeds fear and conformity, and doesn’t allow free expression, found an Oxford study, conducted last year.
Four years have now passed since Edward Snowden’s revelations about global mass surveillance, which is led by American NSA, in coordination with intelligence agencies from the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – or the “Five Eyes” alliance.
This month, the Council of Europe has announced that 28 out of 47 member states do not sufficiently protect journalists against violence and threats, resulting in self-censorship amongst journalists from the 47 Council of Europe member states and Belarus.
More than half the journalists surveyed said they had been subjected to intimidation by government, while four out of ten reported being threatened with physical violence. One in four said they had been belittled and humiliated by their management, and more than one in five said they had been arrested, investigated, prosecuted or threatened with prosecution.
As a result, more than 30% of the journalists said they had toned down sensitive stories, and 15% confirmed they completely abandoned these stories. One in five journalists said they shaped their reporting to suit their company’s political or business interests.
From self-censorship of people on social media to journalists abandoning their stories – this is everyday reality of living in surveillance states from North America and EU to Australia and New Zealand.
“Online surveillance by government and data collection by ISPs in many countries result in self-censorship online that brings about the biggest threat to online freedom and free speech,” says Marty Kamden, CMO of NordVPN. “Therefore, we see a steady rise of people using VPNs around the globe. When governments pass strict surveillance laws, such as the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK, or give ISPs the right to collect and sell user data without permission, as in the US, we see sharp spikes in user inquiries. People are starting to realize that they need to take action to protect their online privacy, and a VPN is the best tool for that.”
A VPN encrypts user’s data and reroutes it through a secure tunnel before accessing the Internet – this protects any sensitive information by hiding an IP address. The only information visible to an ISP is that a user is connected to a VPN server and nothing else. All other information is encrypted by the VPN’s security protocol.
Bloggers and journalists in authoritarian countries and all Internet users around the world can stay private in all of their online activities simply by turning an ON button on their VPN software.