An explosion of new media and information and communication technologies (ICTs) has transformed the way in which people access information, communicate with each other, work, collaborate, and entertain themselves. However, despite the advancement of technology and its existing potentials, there is a great paradox that concerns the media in the twenty-first century.
Even though western societies have gained phenomenal access to public debate and information due to the development of ICTs, the asymmetries in power seem not to have declined in comparison to the traditional media era, as corporations and the state are still in control. Over the years, a strong surveillance-industrial complex has been revealed, in which state intelligence services conduct mass surveillance of their populations via the Internet, social media, mobile, and landline telephones, in co-operation with communications corporations, as well as private security firms. Meanwhile, journalists in Europe and throughout the world face an alarming increase in violent attacks, intimidation, legal threats, and other restrictions on their work. Furthermore, media discourse – may it be communicated through traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio, newspapers) or through their online counterparts – increasingly employs narratives characterised by exaggeration, distortion, questionable analysis and symbolisation, which often contribute to the creation of a culture of fear and insecurity with further implications for democratic citizenship. Among the important factors of this paradox are the growth of anti-terrorism laws and new nationalisms, the fusion of political, economic and media power, and the fading of the authority of critical and high-quality media, including independent media, investigative journalism, and public service media.
In light of these phenomena, Critical Citizens’ mission is to assist media and human rights protection, by promoting a critical understanding and use of new media and ICTs. In particular, our members have a collective expertise in the following areas: privacy; data protection; access to information; freedom of information and expression; Internet freedoms; digital surveillance; media and information literacy; cybersecurity of citizens, activists, and journalists; open source technologies; and intellectual commons.
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