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Keep a careful eye on Washington politicians as the coronavirus pandemic plays out. On one side, the Democrats are trying to stuff every new stimulus or rescue bill with all sorts of budgetary wish list items. And on the other side, Republicans are passing or authorizing potentially dangerous legislation while everyone else is focused on the pandemic. Case in point: the Republican-led Senate narrowly voted in favor of reauthorizing the Patriot Act, thereby once again legalizing mass online surveillance programs.
In a worst-case scenario, say privacy activists, three-letter agencies like the FBI or CIA would be able to obtain your full Internet browsing history, including a history of any web search queries you made on Google. And they would be able to do this without a warrant, and most likely, without having to show “probable cause.” This could lead to a massive abusive of power. And it’s simply an outrage that the American people are not being informed about this. Why are users of social media and the Internet not being heard?
Little by little, it seems, our constitutional rights are being eliminated. We’re being forced to quarantine in our homes, and not being allowed to peacefully assemble in public. Churchgoers are being stripped of their constitutional right to practice their religion by attending church on Sunday, and free speech is being trampled on left and right (no pun intended) by Internet “censors” like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Fail to adhere to the official online narrative, and your social media content will be shadow banned, pulled down, or demonetized. Speak out too strongly on social media on a controversial topic, and social media will pull the plug entirely. Do you realize how much content about the coronavirus pandemic has been politicized, even to the point where certain potential cures or treatments no longer have a free speech guarantee?
Politicians ignore us at their own peril
The political maxim of “Never let a good crisis go to waste” has never been truer than in these uncertain times. National, state and local politicians seem to be drunk on their own power to influence our lives. Open your small business up, and you could be facing arrest and imprisonment. Spend a day at the beach or the local park, and you could be facing a hefty fine (or worse). Speak out on social media, and you’ll fall out of the good graces of social media platforms like YouTube. For social media influencers who depend on social media for their livelihood, this could be catastrophic.
For that reason, we all need to be more vigilant about what our politicians are doing, especially when it comes to our online lives. Often, they seem to be working under cover of darkness to enact their own private goals. We’ve told them we want online privacy, and they didn’t listen. We told them we wanted Net Neutrality, and they didn’t listen. We told them we want free speech and freedom of expression, and they didn’t listen. Meanwhile, they lined their pockets with contributions from wealthy donors, big-time corporations and lobbyists.
Perhaps the only good news in all this is that we still have the power to vote people out of office. Politicians are public servants who should work for us, and it’s time to use online social media to remind them of this fact. Otherwise, we might wake up one day to find a massive, sprawling surveillance state already firmly in place and no way to fight back.