Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Strategies of authoritarian control: The culture of forwarding private Facebook screen captures to authorities


One of the well-rehearsed strategies of authoritarian control is surveillance.

While technologies enable new modes of surveillance, the power and control of surveillance is reproduced through human participation.

Mechanisms of surveillance are perfected and reproduced by willing subjects that participate in the reproduction of surveillance (Andrejevic, 2002, 2007; Dubrofsky, 2011; Fuchs, 2017; Owen & Imre, 2013). Those that participate in these mechanisms are led to believe that they will somehow be rewarded by the structures.

With each new technology, authoritarian powers invent new mechanisms of control.

The power of authoritarianism lies precisely in the threat that one will be found out if they did or said anything that challenges the control of the structure. Surveillance works toward silencing critique through the culture of fear it reproduces.

Inherent in the reproduction of this culture of fear is the prevalence of mechanisms of surveillance. Everyday interactions are turned into sites of surveillance. Modes of participation are brought under the purview of surveillance.

And everyone around you is potentially an accomplice to the strategies of surveillance. Your neighbor, colleague, friend, partner-the possibility that anyone can potentially be an instrument of surveillance feeds a sense of paranoia that is antithetical to critical thought.

The global emergence of Facebook as a platform for social change, albeit within the logics of dominant capitalist structures, has also brought on new modalities of Facebook surveillance.

One such modality of surveillance is the monitoring of Facebook.

Facebook posts shared with the intent of communicating with friends (set to "friends only" settings) can be forwarded to authoritarian structures of power and control. Screen captures then can be used as tools of control.

The culture of forwarding screen captures in this sense is an extension of the overarching culture of authoritarian control. Participants in the elaborate networks of control are somehow led to believe that they will be incentivized and rewarded for passing on information, ironically themselves being under surveillance by somebody else. The paranoia enables the authoritarian system to reproduce itself, silencing critical thought and interrogation.

One of the key sites for communication advocacy in this backdrop is to hold global corporate structures such as Facebook to account. Facebook privacy settings are rendered meaningless if private Facebook posts can be treated as public.

References

Andrejevic, Mark. (2002). "The work of watching one another: Lateral surveillance, risk, and governance." Surveillance & Society 2.4.

Andrejevic, M. (2007). iSpy: Surveillance and power in the interactive era (p. 182). Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Dubrofsky, R. E. (2011). Surveillance on reality television and Facebook: From authenticity to flowing data. Communication Theory, 21(2), 111-129.

Fuchs, C. (2017). Social media: A critical introduction. Sage.

Owen, S., & Imre, R. (2013). Little mermaids and pro-sumers: The dilemma of authenticity and surveillance in hybrid public spaces. International Communication Gazette, 75(5-6), 470-483.

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