As in any country, the exact picture depends on the media you consume. For Russians with the desire and a bit of tech-savvy, unofficial information is still accessible. But those who follow the official news, as The Economist did on May 11th, see a world solely of the Kremlin’s making. Here is a day in the life of a follower of The Putin Show.

“In just one month, TikTok went from being considered a serious threat to Putin’s national support for the war to becoming another possible conduit for state propaganda,” said Giulia Giorgi, a researcher at Tracking Exposed, which has been studying the platform’s policies and actions in Russia since the invasion began in February. “Our findings show clearly how TikTok’s actions influenced that trajectory.”

Part of the problem is that the current leaders of Western countries have never dealt with thugs. Their experience and education relate to interactions between statesmen. The principle of these people’s behaviour is that both sides concede to each other in the interests of their electorate or subjects. War is evil to them, and the use of force is a last resort.

This is not the case with Vladimir Putin. He was raised in the KGB, an organisation that relied on force and disregard for the law.

If you live in a fake world long enough, it can start to feel real. Dictators and despots begin to believe their own lies, repeated back at them and propagated by state-controlled media. That might help explain why Putin's recent speeches have stood out as unhinged rants. It's certainly possible that his mind has succumbed to his own propaganda, creating a warped worldview in which the invasion of Ukraine was, as Trump put it, an incredibly "savvy" move.

Blaming America first became all too easy. After September 11, U.S. power was as overwhelming as it was uncontested. That it was squandered on two endless wars made it convenient to focus on America's sins, while underplaying Russia's and China's growing ambitions.

Today, the most brutal members of Autocracy Inc. don't much care if their countries are criticized, or by whom. The leaders of Myanmar don't really have any ideology beyond nationalism, self-enrichment, and the desire to remain in power. The leaders of Iran confidently discount the views of Western infidels. The leaders of Cuba and Venezuela dismiss the statements of foreigners on the grounds that they are "imperialists." The leaders of China have spent a decade disputing the human-rights language long used by international institutions, successfully convincing many people around the world that these "Western" concepts don't apply to them. Russia has gone beyond merely ignoring foreign criticism to outright mocking it.

The government's approach to technological surveillance is leading us down a dark path, experts warn, as it prepares to give law enforcement agencies new hacking powers.

Currently before parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 is the government's latest attempt to gain a watchful eye over cyber space.

Once the bill passes, it will dish out extra power to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), giving the agencies access to new warrants that will let them modify and delete data, collect intelligence from online communities, and even take over the online accounts of supposed criminals.

The disease poses a grave and fast-moving threat to every nation. Governments have, quite reasonably, assumed emergency powers to counter it. But such powers can be abused. Governments have selectively banned protests on the grounds that they might spread the virus, silenced critics and scapegoated minorities. They have used emergency measures to harass dissidents. And they have taken advantage of a general atmosphere of alarm. With everyone’s attention on covid-19, autocrats and would-be autocrats in many countries can do all sorts of bad things, safe in the knowledge that the rest of the world will barely notice, let alone to object.

WhatsApp, which is used by 1.5bn people worldwide, discovered in early May that attackers were able to install surveillance software on to both iPhones and Android phones by ringing up targets using the app’s phone call function.

The malicious code, developed by the secretive Israeli company NSO Group, could be transmitted even if users did not answer their phones, and the calls often disappeared from call logs, said the spyware dealer, who was recently briefed on the WhatsApp hack.

...

NSO’s flagship product is Pegasus, a program that can turn on a phone’s microphone and camera, trawl through emails and messages and collect location data.

NSO advertises its products to Middle Eastern and Western intelligence agencies, and says Pegasus is intended for governments to fight terrorism and crime.

But mostly to spy on people said governments don't particularly like, of course.

Enligt Bahnhofs anonyma källor föreslår utredningen att datalagringen på flera sätt ska utökas. Dessutom ska internetoperatörerna tvingas bygga om sina system i syfte att underlätta övervakningen. En normalstor operatör kommer enligt inofficiella beräkningar att behöva lagra 300 Terabyte mer än idag, till en kostnad av hundratals miljoner kronor.

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