Americans are increasingly suspicious of their government’s surveillance measures, yet there is growing evidence that state governments across the country are utilizing social media surveillance to monitor and crack down on “hate speech” or any other undesirable activities.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently addressed the media stating that her state has been vigilant in “collecting data from social media platforms as part of an effort to counter online ‘negativity’ and ‘hate speech’” due to a marked rise in antisemitic attacks. In response, she “immediately deployed the State Police” and is “very focused on the data we’re collecting from surveillance efforts – what’s being said on social media platforms.”
With words like these, many Americans question the governor’s creeping intrusions on users’ fundamental right to free speech and privacy, as protected by the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. As Hochul stated, “No New Yorker should feel they have to hide any indications of what their religious beliefs are” – but that’s not exactly the same as saying Americans should not feel their privacy is being violated. It’s not clear how many of these surveillance efforts are adequately transparent and regulated, and when the government’s ‘overreach’ crosses the line.
Governor Hochul admitted that her state had “launched an effort to be able to counter some of the negativity and reach out to people when we see hate speech being spoken about on online platforms.” However, it’s unclear if this effort is an appropriate response to those who’ve committed crimes, or if it’s an aggressive move to police the entire populace and their views.
So how do we determine whether our state government’s so-called “efforts to counter negativity” are just attempts to suppress legitimate dissent or are reasonable measures to protect the public from the real threat of hate crimes? Some argue that this is an important issue of state-sanctioned censorship, but regardless of one’s opinion, it does appear to be an example of government overstepping its boundaries in an effort to control whatever it sees as “immoral” or “offensive” on social media.
At the very least, it’s alarming that New York State has an active social media surveillance program. It’s time for citizens across the country to speak up and demand that their elected officials defend their rights to express opinions without the fear of being surveilled or monitored by corrupt politicians who are more interested in suppressing freedom than protecting it.