Quiz: How well do you know your ‘complicity’ facts?


The special report in the spring 2020 edition of Index on Censorship magazine, Complicity, focuses on the ways we give away our information and privacy and why. Take our new quiz to see if you know your facts about surveillance, app data and China’s global reach.

How well do you know your 'Complicity' facts?

What is the estimate for the number of people in Sweden who have microchips inserted under their skin?
How many summits have there been between the ruler of North Korea Kim Jong Un and president of South Korea Moon Jae-in since 2017?
In what year was journalist Miroluba Benatova, who now works as a taxi driver, voted one of Bulgaria’s most influential women by Capital magazine?
How many CCTV cameras are there estimated to be in China by 2021?
What was the name of the period in the 1930's in the Soviet Union when you could be accused of being an enemy of the state with little or no evidence?
What have catwalk brands Versace and Givenchy apologised to the Chinese government for?
According to a survey by the Centre for Data Innovation, what percentage of people would support the idea of paying a fee for Google and Facebook in return for giving up less of their data?
The Chinese government funds a collection of institutes around the world in which China’s three T’s, Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen, are said to be taboo subjects. After which ancient Chinese philosopher are these institutes named?
How well do you know your 'Complicity' facts?
You got {{userScore}} out of {{maxScore}} correct

In emergencies we give away our essential freedoms lightly. Do we need to rethink?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Keeping our heads down can mean that hard-won rights can easily be lost. Sometimes we choose to stay quiet, but often we are complicit without realising, says Rachael Jolley” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][vc_single_image image=”113251″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

“It is easy to part with or give away great privileges, but hard to be gained if once lost,” said Quaker William Penn, who went on to establish the state of Pennsylvania in the USA.

Far more recently, another wise man, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Judge, said: “There are still many countries in the world where what we happily call our rights remain privileges waiting to be won and entrenched.”

These thoughts are the cornerstones of the theme of this issue – the idea that we can give away our rights if we do not stand up for them.

We can be complicit in letting them erode if we feel they are not important enough or let other things take precedence, and many are willing to give away freedom for security.

The Merriam Webster dictionary tells us that the root of the English word “complicit” comes from the Latin word “complicare”, meaning “to fold together”, and that it has evolved over time into meaning helping to do wrong or to commit a crime in some way – in other words, allowing ourselves to be folded into a bad idea.

In allowing ourselves to be complicit, we potentially allow those in power to take away some of our rights forever.

As Lord Judge also points out in his book The Safest Shield, we should be careful never to assume that liberties, rights and justice can be taken for granted.

Complicity is our theme for today because, in 2020, there are multiple powers that like us to give things away – our privacy, our knowledge and even our power to say no. They try to get us to fold into their purpose, to agree it and let them move forward.

It comes at us in many forms.

Many of us are complicit in giving away lots of information about ourselves, such as our contacts and photo albums from our phones. We do this in exchange for free use of software apps – Facebook or Google Maps, for instance.

We do a deal with their owners that they will let us use their stuff, and not charge us, but all along, deep down, we probably guess there is some pay-off.

We know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so why would there be free email or free software? The answer is: there isn’t. There is a price to pay – you exchange your knowledge and contacts for that which is “free”.

And, as Mark Frary investigates on page 31, taking some decisions – such as being logged in all the time – means you are giving away more than you might imagine.

Frary tracks how much information Google is storing about him and his movements, and realises that it knows 700 places which he has visited in the past six years. That’s a lot of knowledge about  him, his movements and where he might be going.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think back to a time when that would be a treasure trove to a government wanting to know more about its citizens because it wanted to prevent them having information, passing it to others and knowing what was going on.

Let’s take the Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, where journalists and many others were “disappeared” for asking the wrong questions.

What if that kind of information had been available to those governments? What extra power would it have given them to track down dissenters and to send in the police?

Shift forward in time to Venezuela today, from where Stefano Pozzebon reports for us on why the media and activists feel afraid. Threats and imprisonment are being used by the authoritarians in charge of this troubled nation to silence those who disagree with them.

And that government could try to access individuals’ whereabouts from Google Maps simply by putting in a request to Google. The company doesn’t always hand over information to governments which request it, but many times it does. Imagine for a moment what that might feel like.

Pozzebon said: “For those who don’t want to join the almost five million Venezuelans who have already left, not saying anything about anything becomes the only way to cope.”

When we are afraid we are most at risk from the pressure that others might place on us not to speak out or criticise. We can be complicit in attempts by the powerful to change society and remove those rights that Penn set out.

Of course, acting out of fear is understandable. It is easy for those far away who are not risking their lives, or those of their families, to say: “Oh you must do this, or stand up for that.” It is not so easy to do that once you know what, and whom, you put at risk.

This desire to quiet your anger and put it away until a less dangerous time is something that most humans can understand.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-quote-left” size=”xl”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading text=”The petition said she demanded the imprisonment of scholars who had signed a ‘Peace Petition’. The thing was, she didn’t” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

That’s why Kaya Genç’s article from Turkey is so important. In it he describes the moment that changed one academic’s attitude dramatically. The name of Anıl Özgüç, a professor of medicine at Istanbul’s Aydın University, was added to a pro-government petition without her knowledge. The petition said she demanded the imprisonment of scholars who had signed a “Peace Petition”. The thing was, she didn’t.

And by that action, her attitude – which had been to keep quiet and hope for the best – changed.

She had reached her tipping point and she was no longer prepared to shut up: it was a step too far to take her name from her. Like John Procter in The Crucible, giving up her name was too much.

Suddenly she put aside her fears and spoke up. She is now an open critic of the government’s attempts to restrict academic freedom.

This chimes with new research from Jennifer Pan, at Stanford University, who looks at repression in authoritarian countries. Her research found that arrests of outspoken activists in Saudi Arabia had the effect of silencing the individuals but, surprisingly, did not deter others from speaking out. In fact, it motivated more people to criticise the government and the monarchy, and stepped up calls for change.

So while outsiders might expect the opposite to be true – that people would be cowed – Pan’s research shows that there is a tipping point and it can prompt more outspoken calls for change.

Complicity is not an easy topic. We should all be able to see there are sometimes reasons for not challenging the powerful, and times when it would be understandable to feel afraid or at risk.

Many around the world take that responsibility very seriously, and choose to make brave choices – even when it might put them in danger. It is these people whom Index often profiles, and we are in awe of those who can be incredibly brave when the odds are stacked against them.

Complicity is a challenge for us constantly, and in small and large ways we will be confronted by it all our lives. The question is: what is our response?


The piece is part of the 2020 spring issue of Index on Censorship magazine. Buy a copy or subscribe here.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Why and when we chose to censor ourselves and give away our privacy” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][vc_column_text]The spring 2020 Index on Censorship magazine looks at how we are sometimes complicit in our own censorship[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”112723″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Subscribe” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][vc_column_text]In print, online. In your mailbox, on your iPad.

Subscription options from £18 or just £1.49 in the App Store for a digital issue.

Every subscriber helps support Index on Censorship’s projects around the world.

SUBSCRIBE NOW[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Will international companies take on Chinese censorship after the pandemic?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”As China struggles with coronavirus, will there be any change in the attempts it makes to get international companies to censor their content before operating within its borders, Charlotte Middlehurst reports” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][vc_single_image image=”113104″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The legacy of the coronavirus in the country where it all began is likely to continue long after the virus itself has been dealt with. The Chinese government may have seen some pushback from its citizens on how it initially managed information surrounding the outbreak, but at the end of the crisis it might find itself with even more control over how information is disseminated within its borders.

“Beijing is trying to balance a tightening of social control in the interest of public health, and a loosening of social control to promote economic growth. Loosening social control means encouraging companies and people to go back to work,” said William Callahan, a professor of international relations at LSE.

“However, China is unlikely to loosen its control over censorship – even for international companies like Apple – to promote economic activity.

“From what we’ve seen, Beijing is using the coronavirus crisis to build and enforce a more intense surveillance and control regime. This goes beyond censorship to produce and promote ‘positive news’ about China’s efforts to fight the pandemic, alongside ‘negative news’ that criticises how Italy, the USA and other countries deal with it.”

Aynne Kokos, assistant professor at the department of media studies, University of Virginia, said: “I think there will be a slight loosening of inbound investment restrictions to support economic recovery. However, all indications suggest that the information environment will actually be more tightly controlled.”

“Whether or not the coronavirus dents China’s image depends on how successfully other countries respond as well as what happens when people in China return to work,” she said

Christina Maags, lecturer in Chinese politics at SOAS, University of London, said:

“While the Chinese economy is suffering losses, it is also multi-national companies like Apple who are eager to find a quick solution so as to stop the delay in production and resulting negative impact on supply chains worldwide. Therefore, I think Xi and multinational companies both have interests in “reviving” the Chinese economy.”

The world can only wait to see whether China will be more desperate to encourage economic activity after the coronavirus outbreak, or things stay the same. However, the importance that the authorities have placed on managing the message has led to dozens of prominent brands issuing public apologies in China over recent years, a sign of how powerful the Chinese government has become. Household names incurring the wrath of the Chinese authorities range from Disney, for featuring a Tibetan monk in an animation (the screenwriter later changed the character to a white woman after acknowledging the company “risked alienating a billion people” who did not recognise Tibet as a place), to gaming group Red Candle, which included artwork comparing President Xi Jinping with Winnie the Pooh in one of its games (Xi is known to take offence to such comparisons). Meanwhile, catwalk brands Versace and Givenchy felt the need to say sorry for recognising Taiwan as a country.

China’s influence over foreign companies seeking access to its consumer market has been growing over the past few years. But those who trade freedom for profit risk reputational damage among consumers who care about the consequences of reneging on free speech.

“The Chinese government has become more aggressive in getting foreign companies to comply with whatever foreign demands they have and silencing people,” said Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By caving into the Chinese demands you are putting your values [aside] – social responsibility, freedom. It is really corrosive. You are affecting the global freedom of speech.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-quote-left” size=”xl”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading text=”The world can only wait to see whether China will be more desperate to encourage economic activity after the coronavirus outbreak, or things stay the same” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Companies that comply with Chinese demands risk setting dangerous precedents and they make it easier for other national leaders to exact similar demands. Apple, which has come under fire for supporting the Chinese government during the Hong Kong protests, has recently been criticised in India after censoring its local Apple TV programmes, just as  freedom of speech and assembly is being threatened under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

During the coronavirus outbreak China has been doubling down on its censorship of online forums as it seeks to control narratives around the disease. On 31 December, a day after doctors tried to warn the public about the then unknown virus, YY, a live-streaming platform, added 45 words to its blacklist, according to Citizen Lab. WeChat, a messaging app with a billion users, also censored coronavirus-related content.

Censored material included references to Li Wenliang, a doctor who had been silenced by police for trying to warn about theoutbreak, and neutral references to efforts on handling the outbreak.

The death of Li started a digital uprising (#WeWantFreedomOfSpeech), with people calling for online censorship to be lifted.

Kevin Latham, senior lecturer in social anthropology at the SOAS, University of London, China Institute, said: “The narrative on censorship has shifted over the weeks a bit. At the beginning it was clear they were much more open and quicker to act publicly than with Sars in the past – they appeared to have learned that lesson.

“However, once the story about the death of Li Wenliang came out, that narrative was undermined to some degree.”

There is little reason to expect things to change, in other words.

What’s the story so far? Apple blocks more than 370 apps in China, according to Chinese security experts Great Fire, including the virtual proxy networks that allow people to vault over firewalls. The company has failed to lift restrictions despite renewed pressure arising during the pandemic. Its decision to block a map app used by protesters in Hong Kong, taken a few months before, was also called out by critics.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has defended the decision as borne of legal necessity.

“We would obviously rather not remove the apps but, like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business,” he said in 2017. “We strongly believe participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers is in the best interest of the folks there and in other countries as well.”

Wang said: “They say they are simply complying with local laws when we all know what they really care about is market access.”

Apple is not the only tech company criticised for capitulation. Last year, Google tried to build its own filtered search engine for China but the idea was scrapped following an outcry from its employees.

Jeremy Daum, a senior research scholar at Yale Law School, says that while strict laws do exist, many statutes are written in a vague and sweeping manner, so it can be hard to know what the legal obligations really are. “In some cases it can be as vague as not publishing content that harms the nation’s interests,” he said.

Daum highlights the importance of distinguishing between enforced censorship and corporate acquiescence.

“Complicity sounds like they share a common goal of censorship, [but] the companies’ goals are profit, so they are not complicit in motive – It’s acquiescence,” he said.

The challenges to the power dynamic will centre on China’s influence to change content coming from beyond its borders. Apple TV has already issued guidelines to its programme makers to avoid criticism of China.

Ultimately, harming freedom of expression hits society’s most vulnerable, and those with the weakest voices, the most.

“Censorship isn’t just about politics,” said Karen Reilly, a community director at GreatFire.org, which tracks censorship in China.

“Censorship blocks people from reaching their communities and this is especially harmful to marginalised and young people. Online spaces are sources of support. If you grow up with censorship, your connection to your own culture may be cut off.”


Additional research by Orna Herr and Adam Aiken

Charlotte Middlehurst is a London-based journalist specialising in Chinese current affairs. She tweets at @charmiddle


The piece is part of the 2020 spring issue of Index on Censorship magazine. Buy a copy or subscribe here.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Why and when we chose to censor ourselves and give away our privacy” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left”][vc_column_text]The spring 2020 Index on Censorship magazine looks at how we are sometimes complicit in our own censorship[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”112723″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Subscribe”][vc_column_text]In print, online. In your mailbox, on your iPad.

Subscription options from £18 or just £1.49 in the App Store for a digital issue.

Every subscriber helps support Index on Censorship’s projects around the world.

SUBSCRIBE NOW[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]