In mid-2021, Amnesty International published a report on Pegasus, an espionage software created by an Israeli technological company NSO Group. The analysis focused, among others, on devices, which – according to their users – were hacked or infected with malicious software. As Amnesty International’s experts conclude, in the majority of states having access to Pegasus, it was implemented to track and infiltrate opposition politicians, activists, journalists, and human rights defenders.
The activity of the Russian state building a global system of cyberviolence targeting both Russian citizens and the broadly understood international community comprises a separate phenomenon. Even though, before invading Ukraine, Russia – by contrast with many Asian states – did not restrict access to the Internet, it, similarly to other states, lead constant surveillance through systems monitoring information from telecom networks, the Internet, and also social media or motor traffic data.
China has found its own authoritarian way of applying technology in state-governing processes by creating a system of data-flow control and facial recognition technology. The latter, tested, e.g., on the Uighur community, was responsible for mass detentions, forced labour control, and other breaches of humanitarian norms inflicted on this ethnic group.
In the West, the state’s digital violence on its citizens, which pacifies pro-democratic movements and initiatives, is justified by terrorist threats. Sometimes, cyberviolence serves to strengthen propaganda messages – like in the case of Russia – or helps control the society by alluding to traditional values – like in the case of the Chinese Social Credit System.