Is the Covid-19 Pandemic Being Exploited to Limit Free Speech?

Internet free speech

Are We Losing Our Right for Internet Free Speech During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Even before the Coronavirus pandemic outburst at the start of 2020, freedom of speech has been curtailed for years. With the ongoing global Covid-19 crisis, there’s a parallel infodemic going on, and we are constantly bombarded with fake or misleading information.

Moreover, under the pretense of fighting this virus, many governments and organizations around the world are using the situation to silence critics or cut of information they deem to be harmful. With our freedom of movement limited, are our privacy, security, and freedom of information at risk as well?

Restricting Internet Free Speech and Digital Rights

It goes without saying that we should restrain ourselves from spreading false information and always read up on something before we share it with others. However, limiting Internet free speech and restricting the freedom of expression just to prevent the spread of fake news could lead us into dangerous territory. Governments can and have used this pandemic as an excuse to censor citizens spreading misinformation, block sites and restrict free speech to those who they deem to be spreading “fake news”.

While we should acknowledge that there are many conspiracy theorists and those who like to pretend to be one online, the Internet should always be a free space for everyone who uses it. Online users should always be allowed to protect their privacy and security and access free information with the tools they have at their disposal.

Unfortunately, Internet freedom seems to be going towards authoritarianism. Since the start of the pandemic, close to two dozen countries have used Covid-19 as an excuse to stifle Internet freedom. What’s even more concerning that almost twice as many countries have detained or even arrested users for online speech related to the Coronavirus pandemic. This is a direct violation of their digital rights and a dangerous step towards Internet censorship.

The Growing Problem of Contact Tracing Apps and Lack of Privacy

In theory, Covid-19 tracing apps sound like a good tool for monitoring the virus and preventing its spread. Using location data, these apps can help determine when and where someone was sick to more easily find out who they could have infected. Anyone who was at the same location at the same time can be warned or tested, if necessary.

In practice, these apps leave a lot of room for abuse. Any app can fail at any time, but for such an important data-driven app to fail could potentially mean a large-scale breach. Hackers, corporations, and even your own government, all have a lot of interest in gathering as much information on you as they can.

Moreover, some authoritarian governments around the globe have created apps that focus more on the users and tracking their activity rather than following the Covid-19 trail. Even in more democratic countries, such as South Korea, the government used information like location data, CCTV footage, and even credit card transactions to track the movement of its citizens.

In China, local authorities have even installed surveillance cams outside the homes of quarantined citizens to make sure they don’t go outside. These measures show how digital rights limitations can quickly turn into severe real-life human rights violations.

Over the years, we’ve seen many examples of how “necessary temporary” measures can become fixed policies of national interest, most notably with the US PATRIOT Act.

Protect Your Valuable Information from Leaking

Cybercrime was a big issue even before Covid-19, as there were over 15 billion records exposed just last year. The biggest security breach in 2019 impacted over 1.2 billion people. These stats are pretty scary on their own, but when we put them in the context of this year, the numbers for 2020 look even more alarming. Just in the first half of this year, over 27 billion records have already been exposed. With that in mind, by the end of 2020, we’ll have record-breaking numbers that aren’t anything to brag about.

There is no question that cybercrime is on a massive rise. It falls upon each of us to do whatever we can to secure our sensitive information and protect ourselves from cybercriminals, censorship, and limitations of our rights. ZoogVPN presents a safe and affordable way of protecting valuable personal and financial data on all of your devices. Visit our site now to sign up or our free VPN offer and secure your online information.