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The marginalisation of dissent

Two sources for the growing illiberalism of democracies have come to light in recent decades: technological advance and the securitisation of our states against terrorist attack and the commission of crime. As a result, social media users living in democratic societies are now the most intensively surveilled groups in the world. Moreover, having lost the presumption of innocence, many of us engaged in fully legal democratic activities such as environmental protest, investigative journalism or simply being Muslim, have found ourselves caught up in an unregulated surveillance web.

A third contributor to creeping authoritarianism is the attempt, often in the name of ‘majority reassurance’, to carry on governing by one community national standard in a rapidly diversifying world. This year’s World Forum on Democracy is devoting a plenary and debate strand to: Lifting the veil of fear – building trust and resilience in diverse societies. In this space, openDemocracy looks at chilling effects, hate speech legislation, de-radicalisation programmes, anticipatory profiling, treatments of protesters, dissidents and whistleblowers, new McCarthyisms, and all the other ways in which our societies may be marginalising dissent.

How did mistrust of mainstream media become a sign of violent extremism?

The UK Government’s Prevent strategy has led to official claims that mistrust of mainstream media and anger about government policies can be symptomatic of violent extremism.

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Rich Conversations at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 in Strasbourg (2)

The World Forum for Democracy 2015 ran 'lab sessions' on innovative initiatives connected to the Forum's key themes. Rich Conversations emerges from those sessions. On dance.

Rich Conversations at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 in Strasbourg (1)

The World Forum for Democracy 2015 ran 'lab sessions' on innovative initiatives connected to the Forum's key themes. Rich Conversations emerges from those sessions. On hate speech.

Anti-Muslim hatred from the margins to the mainstream

Whatever local Muslim communities do to remind society that these extremists don’t represent them, there are media commentators, as well as right-wing politicians, constantly fostering a narrative of collective responsibility.

Just another ‘black box’? First thoughts on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council

Twitter announced the creation of a body to deal with hate speech on the network. This approach, however, is more problematic than adequate.

Freedom and control in the surveillance age (Part 2)

The Strasbourg Forum met soon after the Paris attacks, at a time of fear. Under such conditions, we ask in this week's feature: can our democracies resist the marginalisation of dissent?

“Why the movement against hate speech matters to me and what I plan to do about it…”

Our weapon is to spread love speech, encourage argumentation during debates, look at the stories rather than the statistics, be human, be vulnerable and be an example.

Instead of fighting against, let’s fight for

A boomerang of good stories is what we need in our unhealthy culture.

Brazil's digital protests spell trouble on the street

The question now is whether citizens will wake up only after it's too late. Despite the model Marco Civil, the country might well need to fall apart some more. Español

Emotion and protest in Turkey: what happened on 19 January, 2007?

Those gathering spontaneously after the assassination of Hrant Dink have been part of the Gezi movement — in a non-violent way, manifesting their desire to be the Subjects of their own lives.

Book review: The Egyptians

Jack Shenker's The Egyptians: A Radical Story is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how and why Egypt's revolution happened – and why it continues.

‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster

Counter-radicalisation in France draws on British and Dutch policies developed in the mid-2000s. It extends police action to areas of diversity management such as education, religion and social policy. With what results? Interview.

Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016

Commentary misses the point: the legitimacy of Trump or Le Pen comes not from the sudden appeal of a new brand of right-wing populism, but their legitimisation by mainstream politics.

Introducing the Special Branch Files Project

Reading through hundreds of pages describing the innocuous behaviour of citizens exercising their democratic rights to protest raises questions of proportionality. Also, isn’t this a waste of police time?

The illusion of security

It seems as if the political process has been poisoned by the intelligence agencies, who are given more power with less accountability requested every time they fail. Interview.

Yemen: independent intellectuals under threat

Polarisation is wiping out all independent or dissenting voices. Yemeni intellectuals are constantly at risk of acts of violent intimidation, arrest or assassination. Français

Tunisia’s fight against its revolutionary youth

The threat of terrorism has been exploited to justify anti-democratic laws and an escalation of arrests and detentions, apparently more focused on silencing dissent than anything else.

Precarious privacy

This excerpt from the surveillance expert’s account of Surveillance after Snowden asks whether societies that permit mass surveillance at the expense of privacy are undermining the very possibility of politics.

A threat to whom? Some implications of the rise of “extremist rhetoric”

“We need to call in question how, as a society, we allow our security and democracy to be defined.”

Poisoned apple: the curse of social media in the Gulf

The increased social media use in the Gulf might signify some progress for its citizens, but the extent to which it empowers them is greatly outweighed by state surveillance through the same vehicle.

Human rights aren’t enough any more - we need a new strategy

We must recognise dissent as a bedrock of a healthy society, without which there can be no creativity, innovation, disruption, progress and - crucially - democracy.

How did mistrust of mainstream media become a sign of violent extremism?

The UK Government’s Prevent strategy has led to official claims that mistrust of mainstream media and anger about government policies can be symptomatic of violent extremism.

Surveillance: Zakharov v Russia and what it means for the Investigatory Powers Bill

A recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights carries important lessons for any government gearing up for a reform of its communications surveillance laws.

Totally unbalanced power

"I don’t want to live in a society where everyone can be controlled, their data collected and stored, and then used for whatever purposes private companies want." Interview.

Where do we stand as we seek the balance between freedom and control?

As leaders, we have to overcome all of our historical, political, cultural divides and work towards building trust between communities.” Interview.

Paris – 3 weeks on

"It is fundamental to search for explanations within our society, notably the social and economic exclusion of part of the population in France."

Paris attacks November 13: ending the cycle of vengeance?

After the worst attacks in their history, the Spanish and Norwegian governments had the courage to respond differently from the Anglo-American mimetic knee-jerk response - an example France should follow.

How ISIS provincialised Europe

A politics of blame, of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, serves only to endorse ISIS’s Manichean worldview. Only an ethos of intercultural dialogue can help produce the "strange multiplicity" that an irreversibly multiethnic Europe so urgently needs.

Surveillance after Paris

There’s little evidence that “mass surveillance” catches potential terrorists, but it does risk catching innocents. More conventional police methods are more effective against terrorism.

Letter from Paris: which side will prevail?

The state of emergency is being used to harass ecological activists and to block demonstrations denouncing the irresponsibility of governments in facing up to climate change, during the COP21 meeting.

ISIS wants to destroy the 'grey zone'. Here's how we defend it

After the Paris attacks, it is imperative that we safeguard this arena of co-existence, where people of all faith and none remain unified on the principles of common humanity.

Censorship and conspiracy theories rule the day in post-election Turkey

There is an undeniable link between media censorship and the proliferation of conspiracy theories in Turkey. In turn, society is so polarized that it lacks the means to negotiate truth claims.

Does surveillance mean the death of democracy?

Civil liberties activists are busy writing the script of how digital surveillance killed our democracies. Yet, their true enemy lies elsewhere. Português. Español.

"Transparency for the state! Privacy for the rest of us!"

When something stops being an instrument for democracy and justice and becomes a slogan, that’s when we have a problem. Look what they’ve done with 'Love', 'Peace', 'Democracy' and 'Justice'…Español.

We've come a long, long way together: building coalitions around the right to privacy

Our worldwide coalition against surveillance is expanding, reaching organisations across all continents and silos.

Late neoliberalism and its discontents

Social movements face 3 challenges: the symbolic challenge of constructing a new subject; the material challenge of mobilizing limited resources; and the strategic challenge of influencing a very closed political system. Español.

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